Volunteering in Puerto Rico
My first week in Puerto Rico was, without doubt, a busy, enlightening, emotional and productive experience. I volunteered for quite a number of organizations, met lots of different personalities and witnessed different ways of life. Without further ado, I’ll like to explicitly expatiate on my first-week experience as a volunteer in Puerto Rico and why it was such a unique one.
Knowing fully well my mission was to help (by volunteering) in Puerto Rico, securing a home base was a top priority! I had to decide which was economically beneficial between a hostel and a house. After dropping the idea of a hostel, I began my search for a house and with luck on my side, my friend Jose from needs foundation Puerto Rico came through and offered me free housing.
The next thing was to begin volunteering but to do that, I needed to find volunteering opportunities around me. After a while, I found a few volunteering opportunities. My first volunteering engagement was with YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). All I had to do here was pick up debris that hurricane Maria had scattered throughout the island and paint some doors to the entrance of the building. Pretty easy, you say? But I must tell you, the exposure I got from volunteering in these activities (especially the latter) provided me with adequate room to meet different people, inform them about my mission and how I look forward to securing a place I can stay and serve a long term to make the best possible impact.
A few days later, I was able to discover a local Food Bank (Banco de Alimento in Bayom ) that needed volunteering help and I was not sure why I did not think of it at first because almost every country you go to has a food bank, but I guess making mistakes make us human. Once again, my very good friend played an important role in this project as he gave me a lift daily to the local food bank, giving me the privilege to walk all the way back. It was quite a short distance (about 5 miles) and I had the opportunity to explore the country as it gave me a clear perception of the environment I was in. My time at the food bank was wonderful because I was able to help, interact with local volunteers, examine how they felt about what they were experiencing and how they handle it as I was the only foreigner present with them.
Everything has its own benefits, volunteering is no exception. During my stay at the food bank, I met with a reporter who was to interview volunteers in Puerto Rico. She told me about another organization – World Kitchen; which needed volunteers and as a way of enlarging my exposure and impact, I grabbed the opportunity. World Kitchen is a soup kitchen known worldwide for feeding people. I was able to join her and her friend along with a photographer to Dorado, Puerto Rico. I spent most time cutting pork and eating as well. So if you’re there thinking volunteering has no benefits, I’m sure you know by now you’re wrong! I spent few weeks volunteering in and out of the Food Bank, and I still do anytime I am in the area. The more I travel, the more I find various projects to volunteer and sometimes it is difficult to get back to the initial project you took part in.
One of my most enjoyable moment of volunteering at the Food Bank was this past week when I was opportune to travel alongside another local volunteer who takes time to drive deep into the mountains to deliver food to residents there. The ride was approximately 2 to 3 hours and surprisingly, she does that every week! Not just that, she currently helps a local family by donating money to help them acquire enough money to secure another property they can move into. It was interesting to study the way residents in this location took advantage of the food bank delivery program and lived their lives. Some of the kids in this area had never seen the beach until recently, all thanks to the volunteer who made it a reality. They did not even know how act in a restaurant and the concept of table service. They thought they had to wash the plates once they were done and it was so amusing to me.
Gradually, I began to understand what Puerto Ricans were facing and I must say it has inspired my zeal! What is worth doing at all, they say is worth doing well and by I know I cannot give up because the people here need more volunteers like me. Finally, I’ll like to describe my first week in Puerto Rico as a “privilege” and I look forward to making more impact via my service because it is my passion!