College

Poco a Poco You Will Make a Difference

Good things take time. You will not change the world in one week while volunteering abroad; however, you will make a world of difference in one or more students’ lives. Empowering Outreach360 students to live a life of choice through English education will lead to a transformed world. The combined efforts of Outreach360 volunteers and donors in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic ensure this reality. Poco a Poco or little by little, you bring the opportunities that will fuel Outreach360 students’ future.

Why does this matter? Because sustainability matters.

Outreach360 takes measured steps towards educating groups of students who might one day take over our program, allowing us to pass on our teacher torches. Poco a Poco. Volunteers are the building blocks of our students’ growth in education. The knowledge they share during their time in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua will be further developed by the many volunteers that come after them.

This can be best shown by the Outreach360 Adelante Volunteers. These volunteers are returning students that have graduated from the Outreach360 English language learning program. Their success in the Outreach360 program is due to the many hours of volunteer efforts which paved the educational foundation for Adelante Volunteers’ advancement. This Poco a Poco process has transformed the lives of our Adelante Volunteers by empowering them to give back to their own community.

Charlotte Zhen, an Outreach360 volunteer from the University of Western Ontario, explains, “At first, I was a little skeptical about whether I could actually make a difference by volunteering for only one week. Outreach360 taught me that we should approach service with a Poco a Poco or a little by little mentality. Outreach360 does that by having volunteers serving year-round. Our combined efforts will lead to a sustainable education program, and eventually, the children will be leading their own schools and programs.”

Poco a Poco, education transforms the lives of all Outreach360 students. More importantly, this process inspires students to become educators. Adelante Volunteers come back to Outreach360 to teach new students. These individuals serve Outreach360 by creating a sustainable program where students become the teachers. In the near future, we will be giving Adelante Volunteers and native teachers the reigns of our program, which will, in turn, allow Outreach360 to branch out to other countries in Latin America.

“Spending one day with a child may not change their life; not right away. But being one day among the days of many volunteers adds up Poco a Poco. And that is when lives are changed,” Carly Greer, an Outreach360 volunteer from the University of Missouri, said.

Your direct involvement in the Outreach360 volunteer programs will motivate underserved students to dream big. Although you will only spend a short period of time volunteering, your influence will be continued to be felt by the service of volunteers that follow you. This process may be slow, but the rewards are big.

Jordan Weinstein, an Outreach360 volunteer from Edinboro University, said, “Working with these kids and being able to see them grow from just one week is so rewarding. Imagine what they can do with their lives if more people were able to donate and come serve year round. Nobody wants to feel stuck on a path that seems that they have no say in the matter of their own lives. That is why Outreach360 is so important.”

Looking to get involved? Poco a Poco, you will make a difference here: https://donate.outreach360.org/campaign/dare-to-dream-hike-2018/c162117

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Journalism/Communication Majors Welcome!

Outreach360 students are interested in exploring career opportunities in communication and journalism fields. Volunteering abroad in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic will not only open doors for children interested in these subjects, but it will also open doors for Communications and Journalism majors by expanding their knowledge of their focus subject on a global scale. Outreach360 invites Communication and Journalism majors to serve abroad and teach communication and journalism classes to underserved children in Latin America at the 2018 Dare to Dream Summer Camp.

The 2018 Dare to Dream Summer Camp program will be led by Outreach360 short-term volunteers and Caminos Volunteer interns. Caminos Volunteers teach abroad for 8 or 12 weeks in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua Learning Center programs, whereas short-term volunteers serve for lengths of 1 to 7 weeks. This is the second summer that Outreach360’s Dare to Dream Summer Camp program will hold classes focused on communications and journalism.

Graham Hunt, an Outreach360 Communications OLÉ with an emphasis in photography and videography, says, “I think that multilingual education has a lot to do with global citizenship, and I think that global citizenship and journalism go hand-in-hand.  As the world grows more connected, we are more and more responsible for one another; our actions have ripple effects far beyond our local communities.  As such, as members of this increasingly interdependent global community, we have a deep responsibility to inform ourselves about what’s going on in the world.”

This opportunity is perfect for college students interested in making a global difference while sharing their passion for communication and journalism. College students will have the unique opportunity to teach abroad as a Caminos Volunteer or a short-term volunteer. Caminos Volunteers and short-term volunteers will be working in the community to provide powerful and meaningful communication and journalism educational programs that pave the way to a new life for the children we serve.

Graham goes on to say, “I think it’s important that young people everywhere learn about news and newsmaking.  I think it’s crucial that the new generation gain an understanding of the importance of journalism in the public debate, and more important still that they grow up with the critical thinking skills to evaluate and interpret the information with which they are presented.  And I think that as teachers educating a new generation of global citizens, Outreach360 volunteers with a background in journalism represent a great asset, a resource our students can tap as they grow into informed and critical global citizens.”

Teaching abroad can open doors for college students. Being exposed to service abroad will initiate you into the emerging world of global citizenship. With these experiences, you will become more conscientious of the needs of the international community. Furthermore,  volunteering as a Caminos Volunteer or a short-term volunteer will encourage you to continue learning about issues around the world, and become powerful advocates for action and change.

Volunteers will be teaching students about communication and journalism practices and how they can be applied within the international community. This exchange of knowledge will empower your personal growth of knowledge in communication and journalism fields by requiring you to think outside the box in order to teach in a sustainable way. What may be practiced in the United States or Canada, may not be practiced in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Discovering these differences will further your growth as a communications and journalism professional. Most importantly, it will motivate students to pursue careers in communications and journalism.
For more information about how you can get involved with Outreach360, visit this website: www.outreach360.org
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Volunteer Opportunities for STEM Majors

Service STEMs from dedicated volunteers with a variety of backgrounds and interests. Outreach360 students are curious to explore subjects in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM fields offer a variety of career options for people living in Latin America. In order to meet the needs and interests of our students, Outreach360 wants to invite STEM majors to serve in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua to lead classes during the 2018 Dare to Dream Summer Camp program.

The 2018 Dare to Dream Summer Camp program will be led by Outreach360 short-term volunteers and Caminos Volunteer interns. Caminos Volunteers teach abroad for 8 or 12 weeks in the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua Learning Center programs, whereas short-term volunteers serve for lengths of 1 to 7 weeks. This is the second summer that Outreach360’s Dare to Dream Summer Camp program will hold classes focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

What will you gain from this experience? The chance to share your passion abroad!

This opportunity is perfect for college students interested in making a global difference while sharing their passion for STEM subjects. College students will have the unique opportunity to teach abroad as a Caminos Volunteer or a short-term volunteer. Caminos Volunteers and short-term volunteers will be working in the community to provide powerful and meaningful STEM educational programs that pave the way to a new life for the children we serve.

“As a STEM major, volunteering with Outreach360 was incredibly rewarding. I got to challenge myself by figuring out how to turn my scientific knowledge into fun camp lessons. Every time a student was inspired to ask questions and figure out how the world works, I was reminded why I wanted to become a scientist in the first place, ” Kennedy Gould, a student at UC Davis, explained.

Teaching abroad can open doors for volunteers. Being exposed to service abroad will initiate you into the emerging world of global citizenship. With these experiences, you will become more conscientious of the needs of the international community. Furthermore,  volunteering as Caminos Volunteer or a short-term volunteer will encourage you to continue learning about issues around the world, and become powerful advocates for action and change.
Volunteers will be teaching students about STEM subjects and
how they can be applied within the international community.

This exchange of knowledge will empower your personal growth of knowledge in the STEM field by requiring you to think outside the box in order to teach about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in a sustainable way. What may be practiced in the United States or Canada, may not be practiced in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. Discovering these differences will further your growth as a STEM professional. Most importantly, it will motivate students to pursue careers in STEM fields.

Carmiña Londoño, a former Outreach360 volunteer, says, “The Outreach360 students are curious about the natural world and eager to learn about science and how ‘things work’. The students really appreciate the hands-on experiences that Outreach360 can bring them through the science camps.  Leading or participating in a science camp is a rewarding experience that will open the minds of these young, potential scientists while leaving an indelible mark on one’s heart.” 
Learn more about Outreach360 here: www.outreach360.org
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College Student “Profits” Big from Non-Profit Work

College of William & Mary student Trey Mastaler reads with a Nicaraguan student in the Outreach360 Learning Center located in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

College of William & Mary student Trey Mastaler traveled to Nicaragua in August 2017 as an individual volunteer with Outreach360.Trey has volunteered with Outreach360 three times since 2016. He decided to volunteer with Outreach360 as an individual volunteer before the start of his Senior year of college. He says that he could not think of any better way to end the summer than with non-profit volunteer work with Outreach360.

“Outreach360 has given me such an appreciation for things that we have in the United States, like education that we take for granted. It’s also given me a second family. It’s given me friends in different places. It’s given me people I can talk to. That’s why I keep coming back,” Trey explained.

Trey taught English immersion classes to 37 Nicaraguan students from the German Pomares neighborhood located in Jinotega. He taught lessons that engaged students in reading and writing skills. Together with his volunteer partners, Mastaler encouraged students to aspire to reach their full potential in the classroom.

Trey says, “Each time I come here, the students’ English gets so much better. When I see the looks on the students’ faces at the end of the week or when they are just grasping a new concept, that’s everything for me.”

Outreach360 welcomes individual volunteers, like Trey, to serve in impoverished areas in Latin America. Each trip that Trey has participated in has offered new life lessons for him to take home; however, ultimately, he greatly admires Nicaraguans’ positivity and determination in the face of adversity.

“Being here and realizing how a lot of these people take every day as a gift and they say when something bad happens, ‘Okay. Tomorrow is a new day’. It’s an all-new perspective that I have had and that’s something I try to do now. If today was tough, I say tomorrow is a new day,” Trey said.

Volunteering abroad provides a unique opportunity for college students. With Outreach360, college students take on the role of a teacher to educate underserved students in Nicaraguan communities. Trey found himself pleasantly surprised that he enjoyed teaching younger students after his first experience volunteering with Outreach360. Having always imagined himself teaching at a higher level, he said that he felt shocked that he favored working with the students on basic grammar and language structure.

Trey enjoys the unpredictability of teaching as well. Although he admits that most lessons do not go as planned, he loves the challenge of working in an English language classroom. He recalls a lesson that he taught in the Learning Center about detective vocabulary terms. Despite not knowing what most of the new words meant, one student wrote an elaborate story about an international terrorist, completely catching him off guard.

It’s moments like these Trey looks back on and laughs. Waking up each day and not knowing how the day is going to go keeps volunteers on their toes, he explains. he would not want to volunteer any other way.

Trey said, “The opportunity to work with Outreach360 and be here in Nicaragua has been the blessing and joy of a lifetime. Every single day I think about these kids.”

Trey is already planning his next volunteer experience with Outreach360 for January 2018. He is looking forward to spending more time with the Nicaraguan Learning Center students, but he is unsure of when he will be returning to volunteer again.

“I don’t know if or when I’ll be back after this upcoming January. My God, I don’t know how I am going to keep it together when I leave. Jinotega might want to stock up on its tissues,” he jokes.

More information about Outreach360 can be found here: www.outreach360.org.

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I Started a Team From Scratch!

Penn State 2017 graduate Alyssa Gehman reads with a Nicaraguan student in the Outreach360 Learning Center located in Jinotega, Nicaragua.

Penn State Alumni Alyssa Gehman traveled to Jinotega, Nicaragua for two weeks in August 2017 as an individual volunteer for Outreach360. This was Alyssa’s first time traveling to Nicaragua as an individual volunteer, whereas in the past she has traveled with large groups of fellow college classmates. Alyssa has volunteered with Outreach360 five times since her first trip to Nicaragua in March of 2014. What makes Alyssa so remarkable is her dedication to volunteering with Outreach360, which ultimately has inspired her to lead large groups of Penn State underclassmen to volunteer in Nicaragua without administrative support.

Interacting with the kids is what keeps her coming back, she says. Alyssa’s experiences volunteering with Outreach360 prompted her to lead not one, but two volunteer trips from Penn State. Most notably in the winter of 2016, she pioneered a volunteer trip for 16 people from Penn State as a Campus Representative intern with Outreach360.

“It was like having a part-time job on top of school, on top of having an actual job, and on top of everything else going on, but it was the best thing I ever did. I loved it,” Alyssa remembers.

Alyssa was inspired to share the Outreach360 volunteer experience with her fellow Penn State classmates after having participated in volunteer trips with Penn State Altoona’s student-run service organization called Students Committed to Service. Although she had organizational support on the Penn State Altoona campus, that was not the case at Penn State.

Alyssa explains, “I started from nothing. I had no organization, had no funds, had no special way to advertise. It was all just through word of mouth and maybe a few posters. Somehow, after months of work, I had a huge group of 16 people willing to volunteer.”

Alyssa taught English immersion classes to 37 Nicaraguan students from the German Pomares neighborhood located in Jinotega during these trips. Her group engaged the students in creative lessons that encouraged the kids to get on their feet. Together, she and her Penn State classmates made learning fun.

The rewards for leading such a trip empowered Alyssa to become a leader on her campus. Affectionately known as the “Nicaragua Girl” at Penn State, she embraced her love of service by sharing her experiences with everyone who would listen.

“Realizing that I could do it by myself was amazing. I love leading other people, kind of being the ‘mom’ of the group, and sharing my passion. I’m so happy I got to bring a group down otherwise I would have had to go by myself or I might not have even gone,” Alyssa stated.

The best part about her experiences with Outreach360 over the years has been the number of forever friends that she has brought back home with her. She recalls a memory with her now best friends after they ran down the streets of Jinotega to get a smoothie on their last day in the country. They barely made it back to the volunteer house before nightfall, but the smoothie was worth the mad dash, she says. It’s simple moments like these that have brought Alyssa closer to her Outreach360 volunteer family.

Outreach360 welcomes pioneer volunteers, like Alyssa, to serve in impoverished areas in Latin America year-round. Alyssa says the opportunity to work with Outreach360 will push you outside of your comfort zone, but the trip is worth the travel. She hopes that other volunteers will feel inspired enough to lead trips of their own one day.

“Outreach360 has changed my life. I don’t know where I would be if I never came on this trip. I’ve learned so much about myself. I learned my purpose in life. I’ve met so many amazing people that I will probably be friends with forever. I’ve learned so much about what I want to do and who I want to be as a person after I came here,” she said.

More information about Outreach360 can be found here: www.outreach360.org.

 

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I will choose to look differently at the world today.

The wonderful thing about Outreach360 is that it gives anyone the opportunity to invest in another person’s life.  As a typical American, I came to Nicaragua this summer with a whole bag of assumptions that my role would be a superhero to those less fortunate. Thankfully, I was quickly corrected in my thinking. The magic of Outreach360 is that it equips people to be on an equal playing field. As those that are born into wealth, it is hard to comprehend that others that are not are still as able, happy, and capable. It’s a shame that such an assumption is made without any true knowledge of the vast variety of nations and ethnic groups we have in our one small world.

As a Caminos volunteer this summer, the thing that struck me most was the repetition of this one small assumption that plagues the lives of each visitor that comes to our humble Volunteer House. They marveled each week at the electricity, cleanliness, and general joy that permeates the area. Each week we would grin, nod, and listen to their thoughts and say yes, it’s a great way to broaden your understanding, isn’t it? To me, this was the most crucial thing you could learn from a trip like this. These kids have rescued us from a life of believing that our one small piece of this planet contains all of life’s answers. We teach kids to dream, but they taught me to dream differently.

And so, that is reason enough for anyone to come and try this thing we call ‘stepping out of our comfort zones’. It’s a huge decision to say, I will choose to look differently at the world today. However it is an essential way to becoming a person who can love anyone. That is the beauty behind a wonderful program like Outreach360- besides the fact that it is well run, well done, and so easy to fall in love with. It teaches you what love looks like past your current understanding. I urge anyone that stumbles upon this blog to not hesitate on an experience like this. It doesn’t matter your credentials or your abilities, all you need is a heart and room to let it grow.

Jinotega is a home to me now. Come see why.

Nos vemos pronto,
(See you soon)

Jessica Mathias
Caminos Summer Intern 2015
Nashville, TN

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Not Your Average Spring Break

Taylor Baker is currently a junior at Pepperdine University, where she is an international studies major – specializing in management.  Along with eight fellow Pepperdine students, she recently served with Outreach360 in the Dominican Republic through the university’s Project Serve initiative.  This is her story:

As I thought about my spring break plans this year, I knew I wanted to do something that would allow me to give back and challenge me to some degree. Pepperdine University partners with Outreach360 every year, and when I was informed of the opportunity to serve for a week in the Dominican Republic and work directly with the community, I jumped at it. I spent my sophomore year of college studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina and traveled extensively throughout South America, so I had this preconceived notion about what to expect. But I was wrong; the experience exceeded my expectations far more than I could have imagined. Now, I know it doesn’t sound like your traditional college spring break trip to the Caribbean, but I didn’t want that because I knew I could always hang out with my friends whenever I wanted. I wanted to capitalize on my time as a young individual and spend this week doing something meaningful and give back.

Free Time

Being from the suburbs of Southern California, I never thought I would actually awake to the cluck of roosters until it happened this morning. After the lovely wakeup call, my fellow team member and I set out on a run at 6:30am – just before sunrise. We ran down to the pier surrounded by a gorgeous view, calm waters, wandering dogs, and the sun peeping through the clouds just above the palm trees. I don’t often like to run in the mornings, but with all those rice and bean dishes paired with nightly ice cream runs, I figured I might as well.

Outreach360 took care of us by providing three meals a day plus snacks, allowing for free time every day – all of which we spent at the beach, showing us two documentary films, instructing a cultural dance lesson, taking us to the international trade market between Haiti and the DR, which is monitored by the UN, and taking us on a hike/beach excursion. This was definitely a mutually beneficial experience for both the volunteers and the children, and I’m thankful I was able to play a role in the process.

Challenges

Upon meeting the rambunctious students, there was an apparent stark difference in the classroom cultures of the US and the DR. It definitely felt like the students had free reign of the classroom, particularly during the first day or two. However, as the week went by we realized how much potential they had and that, when their energy was channeled correctly, they thrived. As we built trust, respect, and rapport with them throughout the week, it was then that we were truly able to teach the students while learning from them at the same time. We may have also received a couple braids and flowers in our hair during recess. Love was our primary form of communication despite our differing first languages.

The hours passed by so slowly, but the days flew by. Being completely unplugged from technology for a week was very freeing. Not having to worry about staying in touch with people or making plans has been a nice change in pace. I always love a good change in pace, and I believe it’s something I need to seek more often. Periods of transition always allow room for adaptation and growth.

This trip was very enjoyable, and I am pleased to have worked with a fantastic staff. It has also been very challenging. These challenges, however, were both normal and necessary. They occurred because I was out of my comfort zone and therefore forced to grow. I have a newfound respect for teachers and this profession as this week was not easy. I also love the idea of a siesta and think the US should adapt this part of the Dominican culture (everyone needs a little nap once in a while).

It’s not about me

There’s a lot to be gained when you give a little. I quickly put into perspective my problems back at home. I realized that I was complaining about the papers I had to write and the tests I had to study for, when these kids were thankful for the mere opportunity to be in school. I also quickly learned that the “lesson plan” for the day really wasn’t the most important thing; interactions were more important. We created a space where they felt cared about, loved, and inspired. I was reminded that it wasn’t about me: how tired and hungry I was or how many mosquito bites I had. It was about serving the children and representing hope, trust, and faith. I encourage anyone who is able and willing to be challenged and give back to volunteer with Outreach360.

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Bright Shirts, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

Beth Anderson is a senior majoring in child and adolescent development psychology at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). She is also an alternative break trip coordinator for SNHU’s Center for Community Engaged Learning.  Together with 13 other women from SNHU, Beth recently served with Outreach360 in the Dominican Republic for two weeks.   -Photo by Jaimie Konowitz

It was the first day of camp, and I was shocked at how nervous I was. I had been preparing for this trip longer than the two hours spent lesson planning the night before, so I thought I was ready. But no amount of preparation could get rid of the mariposas in my stomach. What would camp be like? What would the students be like? How is our group going to do? Will they even like us? I had so many lingering questions as I walked the dirt road towards Escuela Básica John F. Kennedy on that first day. We arrived with plenty of time to spare. Station leaders and team leaders split up to get everything ready for the students’ arrival. It was nine o’ clock, the time camp is supposed to start and we had no one at camp; that was also the day we learned what “Dominican time” meant. We kept our hopes high and, sure enough, students started coming at about ten past nine. My nervousness started to fade once the first “repeat-after-me” song began.

After camp songs and opening, everyone went to their spots and my co-team leader, Alli, and I took our group to the recreation station to learn how to play volleyball. We had two girls in our group, and we could tell they were shy. They didn’t know us, and we didn’t know them, and here we all were trying to teach and learn together. And then something happened that changed everything: The girls started laughing and pointing at one of the drawings that the recreation station had made. At first we were all confused, and then I looked at the picture and realized the person in the drawing didn’t have eyes. I began to laugh at the hilarity of it all. It was completely unexpected but completely necessary in that moment. This was not where we thought the lesson was going to go, but it was so funny. Their laughter was contagious. Soon we were all laughing, and the tension all of us had been feeling faded away. In that moment we became the students. Here were these two little girls with five teachers, and they were the ones making us feel comfortable. They felt our nervousness; saw the eagerness in our eyes, and through their laughter they were telling us to relax and have fun with it. They broke down our barriers and allowed us to be just as silly and goofy as they were being. Their laughter was common ground for us; it was something we all understood and could grasp on to.

I realized in that moment that you can plan as much as you want, but the best moments are the unplanned ones. It’s the high fives when a student gets the sentence right. It’s explaining something you don’t even know. It’s singing the same camp song countless times because they love it. It’s them scrunching their nose when they don’t understand but then seeing their big smiles when they do. It’s all of that and more.

Watching the students’ growth in just two weeks was incredible. From mastering everything we gave them to becoming more comfortable with us, I thought the change in them would be subtler, but they proved me wrong. Many days I was even wondering if I was the teacher or the student. They challenged me in more ways than I can count. But what moved me the most about every single one of them was that they wanted to be there. They wanted to learn and interact with us as much as we wanted to learn and interact with them. That eagerness to learn and that desire to grow will last longer than our time in Monte Cristi, and that makes it all worth it.

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