Mike Davis is a Scheduling and Events Coordinator at his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts. Mike first joined Outreach360 in Nicaragua on a one-week trip with his university in 2016. Since then, Mike has returned to Jinotega as both an Outreach360 intern and an individual volunteer and has been a Touch the Future Sponsor for almost four years!
How did you first get involved with Outreach360?
I got involved with Outreach360 in 2016 through an alternative spring break program at UMass Boston called Beacon Voyages for Service. The program has about 10 trips a year, both domestic and international, that focus on several different social justice movements. The group I was in had a focus on youth and education and we partnered with Outreach360 in Nicaragua. After spending a week in Jinotega with Outreach360, the first thing I did when I returned home was apply for their internship program which is a two-month volunteer position.
What eye-opening moment sticks out to you most when you think back to your time in-country?
A moment that always stands out to me is one morning before class started a student had made a comment about a drawing that I had hanging on the board. She said, “Teacher Mike, that is the most beautiful drawing I have ever seen.” Which is very nice, although she didn’t mean it like that, she said it sarcastically. Which I found hilarious, but what stood out is how she was confident enough in her English speaking that she could utilize sarcasm and not even think twice about it. Many native English speakers do not have a grasp on sarcasm and I am certainly not confident enough in my Spanish speaking to be able to pull it off. My Spanish speaking is bare-bones enough that Dora the Explorer would be disappointed in me.
What motivates you to continue your support?
The students. It is not a blind donation to an organization or cause that I know little to nothing about, it isn’t tacking on an extra dollar at the end of a grocery purchase. I know the students that are supported through Outreach360, we’ve read books, sung songs and laughed together. The bonds that you have with the students you meet take form almost instantly. Even if you serve for only a week it’ll feel like you’ve known them so much longer than that. Outreach360 sends newsletters with updates regarding the students in their Learning Centers and it is so incredible seeing students that I worked with a few short years ago now being the leaders in their classroom and working with younger students teaching their own lessons.
How has Outreach360 impacted you and your family's life?
Outreach360 helped me grow as a leader. Going into my first volunteer experience I did not realize that we would be developing and implementing our own lesson plans on a nightly basis, that we would be the teachers. In previous teaching/volunteer programs I have been a part of, I would just be there assisting the teacher with their lesson, walking around making sure kids aren’t talking or that they are spelling things correctly. Those experiences didn’t do anything for anybody. Outreach360 encourages creative lessons that make the classroom experience so much fun, being able to take ownership of what was being taught instilled confidence in the teachers. That kind of freedom and energy creates such a positive learning environment for both the students and the teachers. I didn’t think I would ever be able to get up in front of a class and teach a lesson, but after my experience, it is now one of my favorite things to do.
How has the feeling of being part of the Outreach360 community stayed with you?
Anyone who has volunteered with Outreach360 in the past I’m sure is very familiar with their 10 Volunteer Principles. The principles help give new volunteers a shifted perspective to make the most out of their time volunteering although they are a great tool to take a step back and to not take everything in your daily life so seriously to help find the small joys in life that we sometimes miss when we are so focused on the sheer amount of just everything happening.
How is Outreach360 unique from other non-profit organizations you do/could support?
Outreach360 is unique and stands out from other non-profit organizations that I have volunteered with or have interacted with. Volunteer service is extremely important although it can easily become dangerous when not handled correctly. Some organizations put a band-aid on things or become a crutch, volunteer service for the sake of an Instagram post or a bullet point on a resume. Outreach360 is very intentional in everything that they do and the experience serving with them is extremely genuine. The time and attention that the organization spends in understanding and becoming part of the community that they serve in is instrumental in why they are so successful in what they do and why I have served with them multiple times and continue to support their organization on an ongoing basis.
What would you say to someone considering supporting Outreach360 in this way?
In my experience, there is not a single organization that is more deserving of your time/energy than Outreach360. The only regret that I have about my time with the organization is that I had not gotten involved with them sooner.
What message would you like to share with our students?
I cannot believe that it has been three years since I was last in Jinotega with you all, but I know that you all have grown and learned so much since we last saw each other. I hope that you are all happy and still having fun in the Learning Center. I’m proud of you all and know that you will go on to do great things. I hope that it is not another three years before we can all learn together again and sing songs about baby sharks unless you are all into new cool songs I don’t know about.