Annika Beuting, 2015
My name is Annika and I live in a small town in the west of Germany. I am studying social work and alongside my study, I work at a German organization for children, teenagers and adults with disabilities. I started there as a trainee for my study and now, after my internship, I am leading different activity groups to spend leisure time with young adults with special needs, for example a football group, a cooking group, a swimming course, exercise group, a girls group et cetera.
This summer, I decided to expand my horizon and to start something new: I wanted to try working with adults with special needs. Thanks to the German organization IJGD I found out about Sprout and directly started to apply. Everything went really quick, the skype interview with a friendly staff member, booking my flight, organizing everything for the trip – and then the adventure started.
Sprout was one of the most intensive and amazing experiences I was lucky to gain. I was not sure about what to expect so I was open minded to the trip to the United States and the voluntary work at Sprout activities. Besides being amazed by the entrancing and exciting city New York, I was overwhelmed by the cordial and welcoming team of Sprout.
My volunteering did not start without preparation – I joined two days of intense training where I was able to gain an insight into the work with adults with special needs and to clarify all my questions about my work on Sprout trips and local daytrips. I felt prepared after my training and could not wait to start my first trip.
My first trip to the Thousand Islands was incredible. The group of adults was amiable and they behaved like a family because they came from the same group home. My Co-leaders were both international, too. I felt very integrated into the team from the beginning to the end. Everyone brings his own special experiences and ideas to the group, no matter which country you are from. Next to many funny and cheerful situations we had a great time every minute on this trip, deciding together what to do and how to handle situations. Laughing and joking with the sweet participants did fill my heart with happiness and I couldn’t wait for the next trip after exploring Manhattan for a while.
My following trips to Lake George, Salem and Penn Dutch just increased my positive view to the voluntary work at Sprout. Gaining more and more experience with each trip encouraged me. I think the biggest fear I had before going on a trip was the heavy responsibility that the leaders are exposed to. I never had to tackle such a high responsibility for other people in my life before. But just doing it, seeing that it works out without problems and having so much fun by doing something coordinated and challenging like leading a group of eleven completely different, adorable and one-of-a-kind individuals made me grow as a person. I am grateful to Sprout for the trust and reliance on their international voluntary leaders because this is a unique chance to learn and to grow by doing something good.
The feeling to make a difference for even a few of the participants on a trip is incredibly rewarding and maybe one of the best feelings. Just a single “I am so happy today,” which is often said by the bright and motivated participants, can be the best reward for your work and they often transmitted their happiness and lightheartedness to us leaders.
By volunteering at Sprout I was able to support people with disabilities and very special needs, and I received so much positive input and deep gratitude from the participants of our trips in return. I would suggest for everyone to participate at Sprout, even without prior experience or expert-knowledge. Everyone can try to discover his own social skills, even those who never dealt with disability issues in life before. It is a very rewarding chance and I am looking forward to join Sprout again one day.