Volunteers - Welcome
Amelia Cook (pictured
below), a present volunteer living near Tegucigalpa, has graciously shared
her thoughts on how one best prepares oneself for the volunteer time ahead in
Honduras. On behalf of our readers, thanks Ameila. Amelia begins:
Soon you will be saying goodbye to your family and friends and coming to a place
that many people can´t even locate on a map. Whether you are planning on
volunteering in Honduras for 2 weeks or 2 years, you are leaving behind hot
showers, your favorite sushi restaurant, and your native language. But why? We
all come to Honduras for our own reasons, our own missions. Whatever your
reason, you will probably find that during your work in Honduras that reason
will change many times over and, some days, you may find
you have no answer at all.
This letter is, for me, what I wish I would have had before coming to Honduras
as a volunteer almost a year ago. I don´t write this as an expert of any sort,
just as a person in the middle of a volunteer experience, trying to share with
you what I have learned so far.
My experience here has been life-changing, thrilling, and challenging and if I
had to do it all again, I would. I hope my advice helps you as you prepare for
the adventure of life in Honduras and I hope that, when you come back to the
United States, you too would do it again.
As you prepare to come to Honduras, educate yourself as much as you can about
Honduran history, culture, and language. The more you know in advance, the more
prepared you´ll feel when you step off the plane. Read Don´t Be Afraid Gringo by
Elvia Alvarez, study your Spanish, talk to people who´ve lived or visited
Honduras. As you educate yourself, keep an open mind and heart.
Honduras is a diverse country and people have varied experiences here. A Peace
Corp volunteer will have a vastly different impression of Honduras than someone
who spent a week in The Bay Islands. Don´t let one idea sway you into believing
Honduras is either a paradise or an unsafe, scary place. Like anywhere, it can
If you are a spiritual person, pray! Have your family, your place of worship,
and your friends keep you in their prayers and thoughts before, during, and
after your volunteer work. Ask them to pray (and pray yourself) that you will be
strong in mind and body and that you keep an open heart and humble spirit. You
will feel these prayers and the support of the people who care about you,
especially during hard times.
OK. So you have read up on Honduras, practiced your Spanish, and enlisted the
support and prayers of friends and family. Now what? Before you pack your bags,
let me offer you some tips on “dealing” emotionally before and during your
Volunteering in Honduras is beautiful and rewarding, but it is not easy. You
will have days where you will want to pack up and go home. But you will also
have days in which you would not rather be anywhere else in the world. The
emotional life of a volunteer is a bit, shall we say, hilly. You may find
yourself experiencing extreme joy and extreme sadness both in the same day,
maybe even in the same hour! Accept this as part of your experience, let
yourself experience the highs and lows an always have faith that the low
moments will pass. They will!
Learn about culture shock and identify it in yourself. I´ve found that by
putting a name on the struggle of adapting and realizing that other people
before you have experience the same thing makes it easier to handle.
A final note on emotional and mental preparation--don´t overdo it! Preparation
helps, but no matter how prepared you are you will still be surprised, amazed,
humbled and altered by your experience as a volunteer.
(cont'd at part 2)
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Amelia Cook has worked as ghost tour
guide, yogurt sample girl, and freelance music reviewer before coming to
Honduras as a volunteer. She currently lives outside of Tegucigalpa at Nuestros
Pequeños Hermanos, a home for 500 orphaned children. She spends her days
teaching long division and her nights reading Jorge el Curioso over and over
again. In her free moments, she rambles a bit of her experiences in Honduras at
Good Writer and Have