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Volunteer overseas on worthwhile and sustainable programmesVolunteer Overseas

Kate Sloman - General Care Projects in Mexico

Kate with a child at her Care placement

I turn 40 next year, and I wanted to spend my last birthday as a 30-something in a special and memorable way, so I thought I would look into volunteering abroad. I adore children but unfortunately can’t have any of my own, so I decided the next best thing would be to take some time to look after children. After months of research and deliberation, I chose a two-week Care Project in Guadalajara, Mexico and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

My host family

Kate with her host family

I was greeted at the airport with a friendly smile from Eduardo, a Projects Abroad staff member. We chatted all the way to my host family’s home where I was met by my lovely host mum, Patty. She was the kindest and most caring lady I have ever met. She gave me a big hug and welcomed me into her house, so I instantly felt at ease. Her priority was to feed me, so although I wasn’t really hungry, I did the courteous thing and joined her for some food. I was a little surprised when she served me chicken tacos for breakfast and I was shocked at how many she put on my plate, but she soon learnt that I have the appetite of a sparrow!

My host dad, Martin, wasn’t around much as he is a vet, but my host sister, Llahely, was a godsend as she spoke English very well. I had a host brother called Luis who was a little shy, but he was also very welcoming.

Projects Abroad staff

Kate spending time with Projects Abroad staff

A lady called Leticia was my Volunteer Coordinator and she soon became a very good friend. She took me under her wing and made me feel like I was the only person she had to look after, even though she had several others. She regularly translated for me, topped up my mobile phone, booked my day trips and took me to get my watch mended. Nothing was ever too much trouble and she worked tirelessly 24/7.

My free time

Kate exploring Mexico

It was amazing how much I was able to see and experience in just two weeks. I went on a tour of Tequila Town and Chapala Lake and I was lucky enough to visit cathedrals, art galleries, museums, theatres and markets as part of my three-hour walking tour with Lucas. I was blown away by his local knowledge and kindness. He is such a gentleman!

My Care placement

Kate sightseeing in Guadalajara

My time at Divina Providencia, a children’s care centre run by nuns, was everything I dreamt of and more. I looked after a group of 12 children who were aged between two and four. They were affectionate, happy and extremely appreciative. They would smother me with cuddles every morning and run up to me holding their hands out so that I could sing “this little piggy went to market” or “round and round the garden.”

Their little faces lit up when I gave them a tub of Pringles one day as a snack and when I bought them some educational games on my last day, they gathered around like bees on a honey pot and were so excited. Their individual personalities shone through and there were some real characters. I think of them every single day and, sorry hubby, but they stole a piece of my heart which will now remain with them in Mexico forever.

My overall experience

Young children at a Care placement in Mexico

It is difficult to put into words quite how much this trip meant to me. Not only did I get to work with children, which was a dream come true, I also met people from all over the world and learnt so much, not only about a different culture but also about myself as a person.

A host family in Mexico

Travelling across the world alone and staying in a country where I couldn’t speak the language was a daunting prospect for many months, but when I arrived in Guadalajara something clicked and I was no longer nervous, scared or emotional. Everything felt right and I was comfortable in my own skin, as well as in my new surroundings. Suddenly I became a brave and independent individual who wanted to make the most of her trip, so I explored the area, tried new foods, tasted tequila, learnt to salsa dance, partied with the medical students who shared my house and did as much as I possibly could with the other volunteers.

I cannot recommend Projects Abroad or Mexico highly enough, so if anyone is contemplating volunteering in a developing country, please don’t give it a second thought. Start saving up and take your time choosing your location and project, as there’s so much choice but definitely something out there for everyone.

Thank you Projects Abroad for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime. I have interesting stories to share with my family and friends and fond memories to treasure forever! This might have been my first trip, but it will definitely not be my last.

Kate Sloman

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