Personal referrals account for more than 40 percent of Global Volunteers’ team members, on average, each year. Not only do “word-of-mouth” recommendations lend credibility to our work, but they help us engage needed numbers of team members for each service program. Who do you know that would love to experience the fulfillment of volunteering with grateful children and families abroad or in the USA? In this interview with Volunteer Engagement Manager Maggie Bjorklund, Peru Volunteer Najma Iqbal reveals how a referral from a friend helped her decide to serve.
How important was a personal referral in your decision to volunteer in Peru?
I was interested in volunteering abroad, and when I talked with one of my long-time friends, Tom McMahon, about his experience with Global Volunteers, that triggered my decision to join a program. My friendship with Tom started in Bangladesh where I am originally from. Tom was a Peace Corps volunteer back in my community in Bangladesh in his early twenties, this is how I met him. He never stopped serving. Tom volunteered in Peru, Mexico, and twice in Cuba with Global Volunteers. He has already signed up for another service program in Cuba early next year with Global Volunteers. I am grateful for his guidance, tips, and feedback. He talked highly about every experience, and was overly satisfied with every aspect. My daughter and I decided to serve in Peru both for the opportunity to work with the children at Sagrada Familia, based on his recommendation, as well as to visit world-renown sites.
What was the impact of your experience as a Global Volunteer in Peru?
Volunteering at the school, which serves 1,400 kids from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade coming from financially challenged backgrounds, was an eye-opener for my daughter and me. It also brought back memories from my own school years in a developing country, Bangladesh. Sagrada Familia is a living example of resilience. With meager resources, daily life at school goes on to take on the challenges. I’ve taught Montessori to young kids at home, and the resources we had there would be a dream come true for the kids at Sagrada Familia. The founder’s vision of taking a giant step with this project, combined with the dedication of the staff, is a big leap of faith.
“Sagrada Familia is a living example of resilience. With meager resources daily life at school goes on to take on the challenges.”
What has this service experience meant to you?
One of the most memorable moments, and I don’t have adequate words to describe my feelings, was when we met Miguel, the founder of Sagrada Familia. This humble, patient, and unpretentious person embarked on his journey with little but his own determination and courage to help the kids whose lives could taken a very different path. I came away with so much respect and admiration for him that it felt like what we were doing added a few lines of hope to this incredible story.
“Volunteering is a task guided by our hearts and spirit of sharing our resources with others.”
Volunteering is a task guided by our hearts, and the spirit of sharing our resources with others. Those of us who are fortunate to do that should take the opportunity and add a rewarding chapter to our own lives. Encountering a new culture in an unfamiliar environment, add to that a new language – what can be more exciting than that? Every word that I could muster in Spanish in that short period gave me a boost of confidence, undeserved it may sound. The teachers and staff we worked with were very receptive toward us.
You celebrated your 70th birthday volunteering with your daughter, Yasmine, in Peru. Have you now referred others to follow in your footsteps?
Absolutely! International volunteer travel is a heart-warming action of sharing, and I encourage everyone to add such a rewarding experience in their lives. This is something we can truly inspire our future generations with. We are never ever done with our learning, and I am thankful I have not given up.
“We are never ever done with our learning and I am thankful I have not given up. “
Extend your service! Share your story with family and friends to encourage them to live an experience like yours. Read more about “Ripple Effects” here: