Elsie is going to be serving in a rural village in Nong Khai, Thailand. She will work to support Hands Of Hope, which provides villagers affected by HIV/AIDS with creative and dignified employment. Read her story below!
Senior year of college comes with pressure and questions from all directions about post-grad plans. Growing up hearing my mother’s stories about her experience volunteering abroad, I knew that that was something I wanted to pursue. So as far as plans for after graduation went, I began with looking into volunteer opportunities that would allow me to immerse myself in a culture different from my own while giving help to people in need. I learned about Good Shepherd Volunteers from the Catholic Volunteer Network catalogue, and it immediately sparked my interest. What caught my attention most was the emphasis on the four tenets of Social Justice, Spirituality, Community, and Simplicity – all of which are very important to me. Throughout each step of the application process, I became more and more excited about the chance to be a part of such an incredible community, so when I was officially offered the position to work for the organization Hands of Hope in Nong Khai, Thailand, I could barely contain my enthusiasm.
I have always had a desire to travel and learn about different countries and cultures. Just like I have always known I’d want to do volunteer work internationally, I also knew I wanted to study abroad in college. So, although I had no idea what I would choose to study when looking at schools, I knew I wanted to attend a university with plenty of opportunities to study abroad. I began my four years at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC in the fall of 2014. My first experience abroad came that next summer. My university offered first year students the opportunity to travel to Rome, Italy to take a three week course on Italian history and culture. This provided me with the unique experience of learning about a country and culture while living in it. We traveled a bit around Italy during our time there, and not only did I develop a love for the beautiful country, but for culture and travel in general. During my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to spend a semester studying at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I fell in love again with a new country, and my love of culture and travel continued to grow even greater.
Each of these opportunities provided me with different and unique experiences, but the biggest thing they had in common was their effects on my desire to continue traveling and experiencing new places. I am overjoyed to have yet another chance to immerse myself in a different country and culture. I am especially excited to be helping those in need while doing so. During my time in Thailand, I will be working with Hands of Hope which was started by the Sisters of Good Shepherd in 2004. The main goal of Hands of Hope is to provide employment to women who are survivors of HIV/AIDS. At Hands of Hope, they work making beautifully handcrafted cards and decorations out of Thai saa paper. Due to their situations, these women may struggle to find or hold work elsewhere, so Hands of Hope provides them with dignified work and fair wages to make a sufficient living and be included in a loving and caring community.
While my undergraduate education may be over, I know this experience will be one filled with learning and provide me with knowledge and experience that no classroom could. I am entirely grateful for those who have helped me to make it this far and to those who will continue to support me along the way. To make this journey possible, I have a fundraising goal of $4,000. Any financial support you are willing and able to give will be greatly appreciated. No amount is insignificant, and in helping me reach my goal, you will become a part of this journey as well. Thank you for any support you can provide and allowing me this incredible opportunity.
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