In 2011, I was living and working in a small city called Venda Nova do Imigrante, located in Espírito Santo, Brazil when I decided to join the One World Center’s volunteer program. The idea of working as a volunteer was ‘sleeping’ in my mind. When this idea woke up, I realized that I had a point in the horizon to work towards. Along with the idea of working as a volunteer, I had another two motivations. The first was to learn foreign language and the second was to experience different cultures. I believed that One World Center’s program was a good fit for me.
Three months after I decided to join the program, I arrived at a calm city surrounded by beautiful lake called Dowagiac. It was the first trip to the United States and my first time outside of Brazil. It was a long journey and English was a big challenge for me. I knew that it would be hard for me but if I faced all the challenges that I had, I could reach my goals. The February 2012 team had 12 volunteers from Brazil, Korea and Colombia. We were a multicultural team with a common goal of going to Africa. The training period was hard, emotional, creative, challenging, intense, enlightening, and meaningful for me. I believe it was for the entire team as well. Some people may wonder how could be all those feelings fit together in one experience. In order to understand what I experienced, you have to experience it for yourself.
Finally, we arrived in Africa! Part of my team chose Mozambique and the other part chose Malawi. I chose Malawi. From the very beginning, I fell in love with the “warm heart of Africa,” as the Malawians called their country. I experienced a strong land with a vibrant sun and incomparable people. To start and develop our development project, we faced many challenges such as: lack of materials, strong sun, storms, long distance between the projects, blackouts, lack of gasoline, 3 hour walk to get to the project, weak communication and much more. However, we succeeded. We planted about 20,000 trees along with teaching and fighting against HIV/AIDS, Malaria and malnutrition in 3 rural communities in Mzimba. In the end on my way back to the USA, I realized that I did too little for those people. On the other hand, I received more than I could give. I received wonderful smiles, good and cheerful conversations, many new friends along with the help of many people and the pleasure of living part of my life in the Motherland of the planet Earth.
I spent almost 2 years doing this volunteer program and it completely changed my life. I lived with different people with various ways of thinking. This program made me understand the world around me better. It allowed me to see and experience different cultures, which I had never imagined to see and feel. It made me realize that when we come together to share knowledge and strength, we can do more than we think and we can overcome the difficulties ahead of us and reach all our goals.
During the volunteer program, I met my wife. Today, we are living in Korea. I am studying Korean and getting to know more about Korean culture and the country itself. It is a challenge to learn a very different language, but it is not impossible. I know that I will master the language and culture someday.
I have learned many different things in the last years of my life. I would like to share one phrase that has helped me in many ways since first heard it, “not knowing how to do something is not a reason that you cannot do it, you will learn by doing.” This simple phrase changed my way of learning. If you realize that, you can do the things that have never done. It will change the way you see the challenges ahead of you and give you the self-confidence to reach your goals.
My experience at One World Center is one I will remember for the rest of my life. I hope this short story of my volunteer work at One World Center Michigan and Teachers Training College Mzimba can inspire someone else to do some amazing work too. I am sure if we focus our lives on doing something wonderful, things that are more than wonderful will happen in our lives.
Written by: Deyvid Soroldani – Development Instructor