Volunteer SpotLight: Meet Julie from California

Get to know Julie and her volunteer work with HavServe in her own words

Julie spent over 3 months in Haiti teaching English as a second language and basic music in the Small Village of Lebrun, and has been recently appointed as the HavServe English Program Coordinator.

I grew up in a small town in the heart of Sonoma County’s wine country. After graduating high school, I went on my first trip abroad, to Mexico, and that kick-started my love for travel.

julie_picI attended The University of California- Berkeley, majoring in cognitive science. While in college, I lived in the Berkeley Student Co-ops and immersed myself in the co-op lifestyle of openness, democracy, and community.

During my third year, I studied abroad in India. This proved to be a wonderful opportunity to travel all over India and many parts of Southeast Asia.

Also during college, I became obsessed with rock climbing. In fact, I worked for the local climbing gyms for three years while in school and for a year after graduation. This passion allowed me to climb all over California.

Another big hobby of mine is music. I’ve been playing music since I was about 6 years old. The first instrument I was introduced to was the piano. After a few years, I switched over to the drums. I’ve been a drummer, of varying sorts, ever since.

My second year of college, I joined the African Music Ensemble. There, I learned West African drumming, bells, singing, and dancing. While living in India, I picked up the tabla, a classical Indian drum. Upon returning from India, I began to teach myself guitar and I’ve been playing ever since. Lastly, I managed to bring two harmonicas to Haiti along with a book on Beginning Harmonica. This is my current project.

Teaching has been a joy for me my whole life. Ever since I was little, I have always loved to teach whoever I can, whenever I can. People constantly tell me that I am a great teacher and that I should pursue a career in teaching. It stems from my passion for sharing knowledge and my endless patience. Over the years, I had taught rock climbing, swimming, drumming, dancing, and some academic subjects. However, I had never been a formal teacher with a set class. The opportunity to teach that HavServe provided me was a true gift.

What motivated you to seek a volunteer opportunity in the village of Lebrun, Haiti?
I was inspired by the stories from my sister, Lianna Marmor, the Executive Director of HavServe. She told me about the immense need and potential of the people she met. The people of Lebrun are so anxious to learn but, have little to no access to education. Knowing that the simple act of donating my time and knowledge could affect a community so pervasively motivated me to join the HavServe team.

What was most frustrating or challenging thing you faced during your volunteering placement?
The biggest challenge was dealing with being the extreme minority. I was the one white person among thousands of people. Many of them seemed as though they had never seen a white person before. It was difficult to cope with feeling like an alien. However, the effects lessened toward the end as people got used to seeing me.

From what you observed during your experience, what are the three most important characteristics of a successful international volunteer?
Openness: Living among people who are so different from you requires you to be open to their way of life. Leave judgment at the door.
Level-headedness: A lot of new, difficult situations will present themselves and you must have the collectedness and maturity to deal with them. This means being clear, honest, understanding, respectful, and professional.
Compassion: You must have a passion for helping others. Your universe cannot be all about you. Compassion means that you have sympathy for others, but also that you want to take action to help. Pity, too, can be left at the door.

What kind of impact did you have on the community of Lebrun in Haiti?
I felt that I had a big impact on the community. Many people cannot afford to go to school or send their children to school. Most of them are not able to get jobs. I helped provide them with skills, free of charge, that make them marketable in the workplace. Also, I feel that I helped to expose many of them to new ideas from different parts of the world. We had endless conversations about foreign people, places, music, and culture. Even just through observing me, they were able to observe what others are like.

How did the people in the village of Lebrun, Haiti perceive the role of international volunteers like you?
My students saw me as their teacher. They saw me as someone donating her time and knowledge. They saw me as a friend and I saw them the same way. However, those who were not my students saw me as a rich, white person coming to give to the village. They very often asked for food, money, and gifts. This continued until I left the village. They also saw me as a form of entertainment. I was foreign to them, with my white skin and strange clothing.

What did you learn about yourself during your experience?
This is a big question for me. As of yet, I cannot answer it completely because I only recently left Haiti. However, I can say that I learned my potential for giving. I learned that I really do have a lot that many others do not have. Sharing this knowledge, which I took for granted, is so small in comparison to the effect it can have on others. I learned that I can control a classroom environment and be firm, even with adults, when necessary. I learned that I love to teach. To my surprise, I learned that I do not need the comforts of home that seem like requirements for survival: my favorite foods, my family and friends, access to electronics, a nice living space, and running water. As the days go by, I see more and more in myself that came out of my experience teaching in Haiti. I am looking forward to continue teaching in Haiti.

Please support Julie  volunteer work in Haiti, by clicking HERE.

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