The benefits of volunteering are endless across the spectrum of life. Service to others helps us understand the world and ourselves, connect with people, impact events and make a difference. During her gap year, 18 – year – old Cassidy Richardson learned all these lessons and more in the Cook Islands with Global Volunteers. She shares three reasons to volunteer as a youth in Part 2 of her reflections on volunteering abroad.
“My service experience was truly unlike any other thus far in my life,” Cassidy insists. “My three weeks in the Cook Islands provided so much new information, that each day was an adventure, with always something exciting to look forward to. There were so many moments that made such a strong impression on me, and made me realize how important is to volunteer as a youth.” What were some of those moments? Read on:
As a Global Volunteer in the Cook Islands, Cassidy tutored primary students at Takitumu school. Each day, she helped them strengthen their reading and writing skills, practiced sight words, blended sounds, and read books within their level. Following that, they would write or draw about what they learned. She cherishes every moment that she shared with the students and feels proud of the progress that they made:
VOLUNTEER AS A YOUTH TO IMPACT YOUR WORLD
“The students who I usually taught tended to be absent a lot from school. In fact, truancy is a big problem in the Cook Islands’ education system. One of my students, Kana, had a past of being quite truant at school. As a result, he had a low reading comprehension and writing skills for his grade. Often, during our lessons, he would be somewhat distracted and want to go outside and play. However, one day during my last week, he made an effort all on his own to learn his sight words. He began reading and writing different sentences that included his words and I was amazed at the sudden change. At the end of our lesson, I could see how much more confident he had become in his skills and he couldn’t stop smiling, neither could I. On the last day of my service trip, I learned from the principal, Carly, that another one of my students, Teato, had increased from a level 5 to a level 14 in a short span of three weeks! I was so proud of her and all of her progress!”
Before and after the workday, Cassidy had time to visit points of interest around the small island of Rarotonga. On the first weekend, the team members flew together to Aitutaki, a neighboring island and appreciated sights that were new to all.
VOLUNTEER AS A YOUTH TO EXPLORE
“It was incomparable to anything I’ve ever seen. The water was gorgeous shades of blue. We saw a wide variety of sea life while snorkeling, ate great food and had “Nu” (coconut water). To top it all off, I got to ride in the cockpit of the plane on the way back to Rarotonga! It was an amazing experience and I’m so glad I took the opportunity to go.”
Equally engaging was living among the islanders, as a member of the community: “I enjoyed living in a community very different from my own back home. In fact, the community of the Cook Islands is so intact and present that I never felt like an “outsider”. This was largely due to the fact that the students, faculty, and locals were so open and welcoming. I also enjoyed observing and participating in a cultural dance while wearing a pareu. The first time I saw the cultural dancing live, was practice for a later performance; however, everyone was still very open in letting us join and try our hand at dancing. I got to dance with local girls who were my age, which was super challenging trying to keep up with the hip movements and synchronization of the dance, although very fun. Later that week, we saw the dancing ‘live’ which was nice to see with the outfits and storylines. I also ended up being pulled up on stage by a young girl and danced in front of a live audience.”
“Through Global Volunteers, you are able to truly immerse yourself in another culture. This allows a connection to form and flow openly within the community and allows volunteers to gain an honest perspective. As a result, volunteers are able to learn from the locals and vice versa initiating greater global understanding and growth.”
Cassidy says volunteering as a youth allows you to comprehend the world, and connect with yourself in new ways.
VOLUNTEER AS A YOUTH TO LEARN
“Before arriving in the Cook Islands, I was a little nervous about what the teaching would entail because I didn’t have any past experience. However, it all ended up fine and my tasks and goals for each day were laid out for me prior to my arrival and not once did I ever feel incapable of helping the students. I quickly found out that a smile and words of encouragement could go a long way; it solidified their self-confidence in their skills and inspired me to do my best every day. Through this project, I learned the necessity in patience, motivation, and encouragement. This service experience has fueled my passion for culture and language through international study and awareness.”
“Compared to other types of travel that I’ve done, this service experience was much more in-depth and more personal. I was able to learn so much about myself.”
“Furthermore, during my three weeks, I learned tons of information about Rarotonga, especially in regards to the education system. It was eye opening seeing how these differences play a part in the daily life of a local Cook Islander. Although the majority of these aspects are different from my upbringing in the United States, I am appreciative that I got to gain a new perspective.
More importantly, volunteering as a youth enables you to learn not only about the culture, but also the wider country. With Global Volunteers, you work hand-in-hand with the local people, learn and are inspired by them. For instance, one person who made a strong impression on me was Carly, the Takitumu school principal. She made it so easy to pick up all of the lesson plans for the students and was extremely nice and helpful with everything. She truly cares for the students and community of Rarotonga; it was refreshing and inspiring to work with her and the students every day. As I see it, it’s important to volunteer as a youth abroad because you get to experience another culture, immerse in it and understand it. It helps you build a global mindset.”
Read part one of Cassidy’s “Reflections of a Youth Volunteer” here.
VOLUNTEER TO IMPACT, EXPLORE, LEARN:
Whether you are approaching adulthood or you’re enjoying your “second” or “third” youth, Global Volunteers enables you to apply your interests, skills, and feed your curiosity. The only requirement? To be an English speaker, and a sincere desire to help others.
“Service is a very important and beneficial part of life that everyone should participate in frequently.”
Ready to embark on your own volunteer experience? Contact us to learn more about our worldwide volunteer opportunities.
- Student Volunteer Trip to the Cook Islands
- Do Good Island Escapes are Good for Others and Your Soul
- A Letter to Students Thinking About a Volunteer Program
- Three Generations Volunteer in Crete