Outreach360 Caminos Volunteer Intern Guest Writer: Annika Hudson
From 2013-2014 I volunteered with Outreach360 for about eight months as a Caminos Volunteer. The experiences and individuals I came across while in the Dominican Republic have left lasting impressions on me. While it has been awhile since I volunteered, I continue to keep in touch with my friends and fellow Caminos volunteers. We became family during our time overseas.
A specific memory I have from the Dominican Republic was the blue class. I taught the blue class in the afternoon at the Learning Center. These students ranged from ages eight to ten years old. This class brought me so much joy. If I was having a rough day, I always knew that the blue class would provide me with lots of laughs and love. They supported one another and valued their education.
While each of these students continuously came to class with smiles on their faces, each of them came from dysfunctional home lives. However, when at the Learning Center, they could relax and forget about their worries. We used to always say “BOOMSHAKALAKA!” when it was time to focus and get started with the lesson. We constantly smiled, accepted, and embraced one another. They were probably my hardest goodbye when it was time to go home. I never thought that I could have such an impact on the students I worked with; and more surprisingly, I did not think they would leave such an impression on me. I still think about that class and hope all is well with them.
I volunteered with Outreach360 because my freshman year of college left me feeling very uncertain about my abilities and what I wanted to do with my life. Deciding to take a gap-year took a lot of thought but in the end, I needed time to discover myself and my passions. Thankfully, my time in the Dominican Republic gave me just this and the confidence to apply to a university that I never thought I could get into. The year following this experience, I transferred to the University of Pittsburgh. It was the perfect fit and I had many successes at this school.
Furthermore, I am now in graduate school, at Gwynedd Mercy University, to become a School Counselor K-12. My time in the Dominican Republic allowed me to begin to realize what profession I wanted to get involved in. Overall, after completing my time with Outreach360 I felt like I could conquer the world and nothing could get in my way. I continue to feel this way today. If you are someone who feels lost, or wants to take a gap year, or just wants to have a life-changing experience, it would be in your best interest to take a chance and be an Outreach360 Caminos Volunteer. I promise you won’t regret it!