COO1507A1 Debra O'Connor Photo IMG_2115 Self with Sharolyn Fredrickson

Debbie with her roommate, Sharolyn, enjoying a beautiful Rarotonga sunset

A year ago, upon going into my 30th year of teaching Special Education, (Wallenpaupack Area School District, Hawley, PA), I made the decision to celebrate by planning to do service work In Rarotonga, Cook Islands. My friend, Kim, had referred me to Global Volunteers after sharing her previous experience. She said it was a journey beyond words, filled with friendly people, warm culture, smiling children, and beautiful surroundings. I became more and more excited as my trip grew closer.

Then, a month before my departure date, my Dad passed away at the age of 71. Grief-stricken by this loss, how could I possibly go away for 3 weeks? My family and friends reminded me daily that my Dad would have wanted me to go. To my surprise, I found that volunteering was good for the soul. I  found the support of my team, my room-mate Sharolyn, and Debi and James (the Cook Islands hosts),  and the warmth of the native people as well.

COO1507A1 Debra O'Connor Photo IMG_2148

Debbie with a peaceful view

Not only did I have a purpose – serving and helping to make a difference – but I was also surrounded by the breath-taking beaches, lagoon, and lush mountains of Rarotonga. I was doing what I love so much – working with children and meeting new people. I was also given this precious time to reflect on the many gifts my parents have given me –  in particular, the value of giving.

It was an amazing, rewarding, and unforgettable journey as I learned that volunteering IS good for the soul. I hope in the near future to again serve with Global Volunteers, and continue to feed my soul and hopefully help to make a difference…….

Debbie O’Connor

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