Veteran volunteer and team leader Sue Surma paused at the start of the new year to reflect on how her 28 service programs have changed her life. In her look back, she says Global Volunteers provides a world context that ensures her gratitude and enriches her understanding of the world.
“When I am asked what Global Volunteers means to me, the answer is easy. Global Volunteers changed my life,” said Sue. From her first service program in an isolated Guatemalan village in 1989, to her latest journey to Kathmandu, Nepal three dacades later, her life “has been filled with gratitude for the people and things” she’s experienced in service to others. As the Minnesota retiree experienced the world more and more, she realized that what she acquired throughout her travels weren’t gifts nor rights, but privileges for which she’s thankful.
“When I am asked what Global Volunteers means to me, the answer is easy. Global Volunteers changed my life.”Sue Surma
I’m grateful for the clean running water in my house.
“When I had to carry water from a water spigot two blocks from where I was staying, just to lay it in the sun to be able to take a hot shower, I became so grateful that I was able to return home and turn on a faucet, and find that it was not only hot but safe to drink,”
“I became so grateful that I was able to return home and turn on a faucet and find that it was not only hot but safe to drink.”Sue Surma
According to the World Bank, today 2.4 billion people – 1 in 3 – lack access to clean water and improved sanitation with 3.5 million children dying from diarrhea and respiratory infections. Diseases that can be prevented with proper hand-washing. Preventative healthcare is the most valuable health service in a rural area. Exercising effective hygiene practices, preventing infectious disease, and understanding how to care for basic health needs are all vital to families in developing communities.
I’m grateful for the healthy food I eat everyday.
“I was teaching an English class in a small village near Ho Chi Minh City, and a family of one of the students invited me and my team to their two-room home. The father went out to the backyard to get coconuts so we would have something to drink while we visited. I learned to be grateful that I had enough, maybe too much, to eat.”
“I learned to be grateful that I had enough, maybe too much, to eat.”Sue Surma
One in nine people in the world are undernourished. Food insecurity is influencing parents and their children, who are at a higher risk of mortality, poor health, growth and development with 151 million children under age five being physically stunted. Food production projects can make a difference in developing communities. Helping families assemble, plant and harvest household garden boxes, producing vegetables, herbs and fruit, or constructing chicken coops and demonstrate how to successfully raise poultry and harvest eggs can ease a family’s food insecurity.
I’m grateful for my home.
“Or when I visited a handicapped child’s home in Quito and found eight people living in a cinder block room the size of my ten-by-ten bedroom, I realized that I really did not need a bigger home. I’m grateful for the small home I own.”
“I’m grateful for the small home I own.”Sue Surma
Homes provide security, privacy and a sense of belonging. But providing a clean and safe place for disadvantaged children, elderly adults, or repairing hospitals and community buildings through labor projects, short-term volunteers bring security to communities that are in need.
I’m grateful for my family.
“And I think about the program at a “failure-to-thrive” clinic in Romania where I took care of a five-month-old abandoned infant girl who did not even have a name. I often wonder what happened to her – the child I called by the good Swedish Minnesotan name of Inga during my time there. I may not have a lot of material things, but I do have a name and a family.”
“I may not have a lot of material things, but I do have a name and a family.”Sue Surma
Giving love, care and individualized attention that all children need and deserve on childcare service programs can change the course of a their lives. Children’s daily needs are generally simple, and every time you provide personal attention and care, you, improve their self-esteem and confidence.
I’m grateful for the relationships I built and the memories I shaped.
“Even when I was teaching conversational English in the community center in Ciego de Ávila , I was impressed by students’ enthusiasm and commitment to our classes. I can’t measure how much English was being learned, but I do know how many relationships were being formed. Life is truly made up of the moments that take our breath away, not the number of breaths we take.”
“Life is truly made up of the moments that take our breath away, not the number of breaths we take.”Sue Surma
English is the language of commerce, technology and opportunity worldwide – a passport out of poverty for many. All native English speakers can teach conversational English. From helping beginners learn vocabulary to practicing language skills with teens and adults, short – term volunteers can help students attain confidence and fluency.
I’m grateful for making the difference in the world.
Through Global Volunteers, Sue has immersed herself into vastly different cultures, to witness first-hand the struggles and needs of people in developing communities. This is how she uniquely makes a change in the world. During her 28th service program in Nepal, Sue had the opportunity to participate on the Hindu Holi Day festival, to celebrate the victory of good over evil, forgiveness, the end of winter and beginning of spring, and a good harvest. “As we are doused with colors and good fun, we could remember how fortunate we were to be in Nepal trying to improve the world one little step at a time once more,” said Sue.
“I am thankful to Global Volunteers for showing me all of the things I have to be grateful for. And take it from me, gratitude is absolutely all it’s cracked up to be.”Sue Surma
What are you most grateful for? Many in the world struggle for access to basic needs, such as water and sanitation, food, education, or care. By working hand-in-hand with local people, short-term volunteers have the power to make the difference in the life of parents and children. Learn more about our volunteer projects worldwide and contact us to register! Your volunteer experience is awaiting; take the first step with Global Volunteers.