Chiara Peretti, 2014
My name is Chiara and I live in Padova, a city not very far from Venice, Italy. I have a master’s degree in International Politics and Diplomacy and I’m currently working for the International Relations Office of Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Before Sprout I had a temp contract at the International Research Office of the University of Padova.
I found about Sprout thanks to YAP – Youth Action for Peace, an Italian ONG that supports young people in finding international volunteering opportunities, organizes work camps and is part of several international volunteering networks, acting as a link between volunteers and international ONG and non prof organisations. In October 2013 I discovered YAP and thanks to them I spent more than one month volunteering in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in an association that works with youngsters, in the slums of the city. This summer they suggested I take a look at Sprout activities.
Volunteering at Sprout has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences I’ve had. This international experience allowed me to get closer to a world new to me, that of disabilities. I enjoyed every single minute of the volunteering (if not all of them, at least a 99%)
I was interested in doing something new and challenging, and Sprout seemed to offer what I was looking for. I wanted to have a new experience in the volunteering field, but also wanted the chance to get closer to the american culture, that I was willing to discover.
I love travelling, but at the same time I don’t like traditional vacations. In the last few years I found out that I prefer to take advantage of the very uncertain Italian labour market: temp contracts are very common, therefore it happens often that I might have a couple of free months between a job and another. International volunteering is my way to do something both good for myself and other people, and it is a way to travel getting inside another culture for real, not only for a vacation, seeing and experiencing things that as a tourist I wouldn’t be able to do.
My first trip was probably what made me decide that I was about to do get the best volunteering experience of my life. The group was awesome: active, easygoing and all the participants were willing to have a lot of fun. And so we did! My other two co-leaders, from Denmark and South Korea, went on many trip before that one, and they shared with me all the best tips they had to be a good leader. We went to the beach, on rides and we enjoyed the fireworks at the boardwalk. For the first time I dipped my toes into the Atlantic Ocean, with one of my participants, Lawrence. I cannot tell which one of us was more excited.
My favorite part of the experience was connecting with Sprout participants. I felt as if we have been friends for a long time. My participants made me laugh, made me cry (both from joy and frustration) but most importantly, they filled my heart with love- A kind of pure, genuine, easy, innocent love. The result is that you feel at home, even if you’re far from home.
The same happens with the other volunteers. From the very beginning, you have to get together with people you don’t know and make everything work for the sake of the trip. What you get is that after each trip you can’t help feeling like you’re a part of a big family- The Sprout family!
I would definitely recommend to others an experience with Sprout but only if they are willing to get involved in something that is both beautiful and scary. Scary, because at the beginning you don’t actually know if you’ll keep up with it. Beautiful, because after you introduce yourself to your participants they’ll make sure you understand that everything is going to be just fine and you’re going to have fun.
It can be tough sometimes, but with the right spirit and support of the other volunteers and the the Sprout staff, it can be a great experience- an enrichment both for your personal and professional life.
I would definitely come back to Sprout. I would come back both for the volunteering and for the friends I met. Sprout had me feeling like I was making a difference for some of the people on my trips, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been involved in. I would come back for the heartwarming feeling of someone in the back of the van shouting “this is the best day of my life!”, even if we’ve been gone from NYC for only two hours!
I would come back for the volunteers, which are just like a family. I would come back for a city that is just crazy. NYC will be kind to you only if you give her some of your heart, and I think this is why Sprout volunteers love it so much.
*Feature image taken by Luis Hernandez