Carlos Vasquez, 2011
After some years of stressful life, in 2011 I decided to take a break to do some things that really could change my life in a positive way. I started to spend more time with my family, I started to swim at mornings, I started to breathe! But something was missing. I wanted to help people, to be a volunteer, to make a difference in somebody’s life. That’s why I started to search in the internet “volunteering in New York.” Why New York? Really I don’t know, I just wanted to help people, practice my English and walk in central park . In that inner-virtual search, Sprout came up, showing me the opportunity to do two things I really love in life: travel and help people.
My first trip experience was Washington DC. I coordinated this trip with two other nice leaders: Annisha, a young woman who has volunteered for more than 50 trips, and Kelsey, another young woman from US who was new like me.
I thought the most difficult part was already gone when the final day of the trip arrived. That’s when I realized I’d been wrong — the most difficult part for me was actually when I finished the trip. When I hugged them and said “see you in the next trip, buddy” and “take care Jonathan”; when they said, “will you remember me Carlos?” and when Jonathan said for the last time, “bye-bye.” To be honest, so many times I cried.The best part of my first trip was how the participants enjoyed the trip. They liked to take pictures, they loved to eat, and they liked to know more about us – it’s amazing how they interact with the leaders. The challenging part for me in this trip was helping one participant named Jonathan. He didn’t speak much, and all he was able to say was “bye-bye.” I remember very well these words, because when you ask him, for example, “hey Jonathan, do you want to eat pancakes?” He says, “bye-bye.” Or “how do you feel today?” He says again “bye –bye.” “Are you enjoying this trip?” “bye-bye.” The experience with him was very intense. I had to assist him in the shower, help him with the food all the time, and hold hands with him when we had to walk. In few days you get to know the participants a lot, and you make a strong connection with them.
I highly recommend volunteering at Sprout. It really changed my point of view in the disability field. I realized how the people with disabilities can really express themselves and enjoy simple things of life, aspects that other people sometimes don’t do.
“When you coordinate a Sprout trip, you are between two worlds, your world and the participants’ world. The real challenge is to connect them.” I came back to Volunteering at Sprout the next year (2012). Why did I come back? Because at the end of the road, when you help people it’s amazing how you help yourself. I am the one who grew as a human being; I am the one who was touched by the participants. I am the one who needed help.