Volunteering with Amigos de las Americas
After training and fundraising most of the school year, I recently traveled with a group of Lamar High School students to Uruguay with Amigos de las Americas. Amigos is a nonprofit organization in which volunteers travel to mostly rural communities throughout Latin America. Uruguay is south of the equator and despite the winter cold, my partner and I were able to give presentations to children of all ages on a number of issues, ranging from nutrition to global warming, and also further build a community center based around an old church in a small field.
We had to walk six miles each day to go to the different schools surrounding our community (we were there during their normal school year). We would then return to our community to work with the youth leaders to accomplish many projects. The only regret we had was that our community’s plans were too large for the amount of time we had in Uruguay. The community members and youth organized for a bulldozer to come from Montevideo (after our departure) to flatten the slanted ground in order to finish the soccer field to give adolescents an activity to steer them away from turning to drugs.
Each community receives something from the volunteers and Amigos; but the true magic of Amigos is the effect that the program has on the volunteers. When we left our community, tears streamed down our faces as each person said an emotional goodbye, running back again and again to hug us just one more time, hoping to hear our voices once more, which at this point were drowned out by sobs. And though Amigos is about leadership and development, the heart and soul of Amigos is the connection each volunteer makes with their community, giving a piece of themselves while also taking a piece in return. Amigos volunteers may return from the field, but never leave their country in heart.
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