Throughout her childhood, Cassidy Richardson was interested in learning about different cultures and languages. The more she learned, the more she felt drawn to help others while putting her growing understanding to work. When Cassidy turned 18, she decided to get out of the comfort of her home and volunteer in the Cook Islands. In Part 1 of Cassidy’s story, she explains what motivated her to become a youth volunteer – and how she chose the Cook Islands as her first adventure in service with Global Volunteers.
What inspired you to travel halfway around the world to volunteer?
Toward the end of my senior year in high school, I decided to take a gap year instead of going straight to university. Prior to the start of my gap year, I wrote down goals and thoughts for myself to achieve during this year. One of my big goals was to participate in a service activity, either local or international. When I came across Global Volunteers, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to experience something new while also pursuing my interest in service and international studies. I knew that I was ready to become a youth volunteer.
Why did you choose to serve with Global Volunteers over other options?
The first thing that caught my eye with Global Volunteers was the wide array of volunteer opportunities all over the world. I also appreciated how detailed each and every one of the programs are. I learned that Global Volunteers has a great reputation, and I was excited to be a part of such an authentic and life-changing experience. Before leaving for the Cook Islands, I was provided with information on the country and teaching conversational English which was very helpful. Moreover Global Volunteers is happy to accommodate people of all ages and address the goals and needs of a youth volunteer like me. Lastly, I really liked how my service goals aligned with the Global Volunteers’ philosophy of service.
“The younger you start to volunteer, the better. In my opinion, service should be a priority for everyone – as it teaches you so much, not only about others, but yourself as well.” ~Cassidy Richardson
What did you learn from local people in Rarotonga?
I noticed during my stay in Rarotonga that the local people are very dedicated to their community, and that their daily lifestyle is much different than in the United States. Unlike a majority of places, there is a lack of mass technology in the Cook Islands. While there, I really appreciated how present, purposeful and communicative people were. Now that I’m back home, I want to get more involved in my own community and share some of the aspects I’ve learned and observed while abroad in Rarotonga. As a young volunteer abroad you get the opportunity to experience and observe, another culture, another way of life, reflect upon it and, when you finally you return home you have the passion, energy and will to keep making a difference and share your story with the people.
How do you think this experience has impacted your life as you approach adulthood?
I believe that this experience will lead me to be more open to new experiences and try new things in general. This service trip has opened my eyes to global problems that are taken for granted in the United States such as education and clean water. I’ve become more self – aware and I’ve increased my global awareness too. In many ways, I exposed myself to a different environment, an environment that faces different issues compared to the ones that we do back home. Becoming a young volunteer has inspired me to pursue the path of International Studies at University so that I can become more educated on adversity in various countries and hopefully volunteer abroad more!
What surprised you on your service program in the Cook Islands?
The biggest surprise has to be the friendliness and openness of the local people in the Cook Islands. The majority of the people there are willing to help you, and I never felt uncomfortable or unsure of myself. In fact, I was surprised at how easy I fell into the Cook Island lifestyle and was able to pick up the language and mannerisms.
Did you feel safe while traveling alone as a youth volunteer?
Traveling solo can be fun (and sometimes stressful); however, there is a level of awareness you need to have. I have had no problems to date with solo travel, but I try to eliminate any possible problems by staying present in my surroundings and keeping my family updated on my whereabouts. Depending on where I’m going, I also like to learn a little bit of the local language prior to arriving so that I can have basic communication in case of an emergency. Being prepared as in any situation helps you stay safe, even while traveling alone.
What advice do you have for other youth volunteers about traveling abroad?
I believe that service can show you the limitless impact you can have. I also think it’s easier to make connections and prompt global/communal understanding when you are younger and have somewhat of a fresher view on life and people. The younger you start to volunteer, the better. In my opinion, service should be a priority for everyone – as it teaches you so much, not only about others, but yourself as well. Exploring the world can teach you so many things if you just do it!
Read Part 2 of Cassidy’s reflection: Three Reasons to Volunteer as a Youth
Is making an impact internationally on your bucket list? Global Volunteers enables people of all ages to fulfill their volunteer goals through worldwide programs. Learn more about how you can make a difference in the Cook Islands. Or Chat Online with a Volunteer Coordinator to get started today!
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