Thomasina and students in Peru

A dedicated volunteer, Thomasina Tafur, is once again getting ready to pack her bags – to serve in both Poland and Italy. She says she “loves to serve,” especially “helping young people maneuver through their life’s path.” She began her Global Volunteers journey in 2017, with a service program in Cuba, and followed it in 2018 with a program in Peru. It was in the Sagrada Familia community outside Lima where she found a clear commonality with the children she worked with – and offered to share her personal reflections with other volunteers here.

by Global Volunteers Alumna Thomasina Tafur

When I was a child, I only had myself to depend upon to learn new and adventurous things. Although I grew up in a two-parent household, both parents worked long hours and had few resources or little interest in broadening their horizons about the world around them. I didn’t have any older siblings, older friends, or mentors. This didn’t deter my curiosity about life, but it did at times result in mistakes and wasted time which stalled my learning and upward mobility. For this reason, since graduate school, I have made it a mission to be an encourager and help young people maneuver through their life’s path. I’ve primarily devoted my time to young professionals and college students. But it dawned on me, what if I was to work with even younger people, perhaps children who not only don’t have many resources or older siblings but perhaps don’t even have parents and are rarely told they are of value and loved? This is part of the reason why I decided to go to Global Volunteer’s Sagrada de Familia in Peru. It was a hard project at times, but I am so grateful I went. I not only helped them, but they also helped me.

” Global Volunteers has added so much value in my life, and taught me more about the benefits of giving; just one of the many things I wanted to do and learn as a child.”

-Thomasina Tafur

Every child and young adult I met was kind, happy and grateful to have our help and company. Three in particular really touched my heart: Sonia, Alexander, and Miguel. Sonia would give you the shirt off her back if you only asked. She was always trying to give you something as an act of appreciation or remembrance of her. Because they have so little you simply can’t accept. However, on the day set aside to play with toys and crafts given by a donor, Sonia and I made each other bracelets. Finally, she could give me something I could accept. I still have it, and periodically I wear it to remember my time at the orphanage.  Alexander is a young adult who grew up in the orphanage and stays there to help while attending school. He is a true role model for the younger ones: a leader, charismatic, and nurturing. I always called him “Alexander the Great”. Lastly was my favorite, Miguel. Perhaps he was my favorite because I saw a little bit of my childhood self in him: shy, rebellious, and always deep in thought. Miguel seemed to always find trouble but I believe he’s just a little misunderstood. I taught him how to “fist bump,” and I’ll always remember our last one: Through the van window before we said our final goodbye. (And yes, I cried).

What I saw those two weeks were children who are happy, playful, receptive to instruction and learning important skills.”

-Thomasina Tafur

It was hard to leave because you want the best for them. But is the “best” only material things? What I saw those two weeks were children who are happy, playful, receptive to instruction and learning important skills from both us and those who run the orphanage. Their lives may be very different from ours, but I am confident they will do well in life with the continued support of Sagrada de Familia and those who participate with Global Volunteers.

Because of another great experience with Global Volunteers, this summer I’m going to Poland to work at a summer camp, and then Italy. Global Volunteers has added so much value in my life and taught me more about the benefits of giving, just one of the many things I wanted to do and learn as a child.

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