Luis Castilla Garcia, 2012
I found Sprout by internet from an organisation called SCI. I had previously researched volunteer programs that work with people who have disabilities and luckily for me, I had the possibility of applying. Sprout was the perfect mix of all I’d wanted for my 2012 summer. I had the opportunity of volunteering in a field I’d always wanted to work in, I could work in a multicultural environment and I could improve and use my communication and English skills all at once. Even though I was supposed to be a “cold-blooded analytical engineer”, after spending every year with numbers and calculations, all I wanted was to release the human side in me and do what makes me feel better, which in my case was working with people who need support. So that is why Sprout fulfilled all my expectations, because it let me spend time in one of my greatest hobbies, and at the same time I felt very useful for it.
I remember my first trip as if it was yesterday. We went to Penn Dutch, a classic Sprout trip. My co-leaders were Jennifer and Eva, and both of them were great. I remember being so nervous sometimes about my responsibilities of handling the budget, and even stressing because it seemed like we were running out of money when we were definitely not xD. We also had very memorable participants, in particular, one older woman who loved babies and always tried to hug them everywhere we went, and another who wanted to ride every roller coaster at Hershey Park. We had a lot of fun and I tried my best even if I was very new.
According to me the best part of volunteering with Sprout is that even if you are working for an organisation, it doesn’t feel like working at all. You are just having fun most of the time, usually as much as fun participants are having. I feel that all the activities and plans are just a plan for everybody in the group in order to have fun together. The most challenging part for me was to stop being insecure. I knew many of my co-leaders were professionals in the field, so I kind of felt too new sometimes. However, they were always there to help out in all I needed, and taught me many useful skills, so I am very grateful about it.
I have volunteered with Sprout four years in a row so far and of course I will come back as soon as I have free time! Working with people with developmental disabilities changed my perspective of this population, and has changed me, too. The participants have taught me way more about life than I’ve learned at university or from other people. They also made me change the way I thought about them. In my opinion, volunteering is something everybody should do in order to wreck walls and baseless ideas.
Somehow you get addicted to the work in this non-profit organisation. It is not only about the work you are doing, it is also about the new people you meet every year from all over the world, the very good environment, the possibility of knowing new cultures. The more you work with them, the more you want to repeat again.