Making an imprint

Posted by Anthony Wald in Volunteers Edit

Carol Olson was sitting with three friends eating lunch, when the conversation turned to wanting to give back. The three friends knew they wanted to do something, but what was a question that needed some evaluation. Each decided to go home, do some research, and meet again to discuss their findings.

At their next meeting one of the women brought information on Global Volunteers. Global Volunteers is described on their website as, “A private, non-profit, non-sectarian, non-governmental organization engaging short-term volunteers on micro-economic and human development programs in close partnership with local people worldwide.” “I was in awe of what they had to offer” Carol explained. “Global Volunteers is invited into each country they provide service for which was important to me” she continued. With the organization set, they just needed to decide on where to go, or where they felt they could make the biggest impact. After several discussions the women honed in on a program in Romania. The program was based in the area of Tutova, which is one of the most poverty areas in all of Eastern Europe. There they would work with children giving them attention and care in the Failure to Thrive clinic, and orphanage. “All three of us just wanted to hold and cuddle babies,” she explains of her choice.

Each woman knew the importance of nurturing a newborn and how it can directly affect their long term development. They also felt confident in the fact that caring for children was an area where they could really make an impact. “We knew that babies need that one-on-one,” Carol explains. “Holding, feeding and rock-a-bying them. We know how important that nurturing is, especially within the first nine months of life. If a child is not held on a regular basis, the likelihood for an emotional, behavioral or developmental disorder grows exponentially.”

While in Romania each women was assigned one child to care for during their 2 and ½ week stay. Carol was given a little girl by the name of Maria, who was taken away from her family and brought to the Failure to Thrive clinic due to 1st degree malnutrition and neglect. Carol describes a typical day with Maria, “everyday I would make it for her first bottle, cuddling her while she had her bottles. The first half of the day she just wanted to snuggle up to me, just kind of be there, be sung to, and hear some reassuring words. Then we would socialize with her other little infant friends. I would work with her on her motor skills, she was just starting to sit up, just starting to say, “da-da-da” and she loved to react to goofy noises. I loved being able to scoop her up, or put her in a stroller, and go exploring. I would show her the birds, the trees and the sounds and she seemed to be in awe of life.”

The connection that Carol made with Maria was strong, which made leaving Maria painful. A consolation to Carol’s departure was the fact that Global Volunteers cycles in volunteers as others are scheduled to leave. Therefore, someone else would pick Maria back up, after Carol had put her down for the last time.

Although Carol recalls her experience in Romania as, “Amazing and truly fulfilling” she still thinks about Maria often. Detailing her emotions upon leaving as, “The most extreme lonely feeling I have ever felt. She is so etched in my heart. I still feel her imprint against my body. I can just plain still feel her.”

To volunteer or for more information on Global Volunteer visit their website. www.globalvolunteers.com

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