Volunteering in a different environment – “life-changing”

Posted on the 12th April 2019

We LOVE this contribution by Lattitude volunteer Oanh Le, working in a community role in Japan

“Volunteering in a completely different environment to what I’m used to has been life changing. – Oanh”

My mentality since being here has evolved drastically, and I’m only 1.5 months in! When I first arrived, I was scared, I felt homesick, like a fish out of water. I was questioning myself, as I had never had any prior experience in working so personally with people who have disabilities. By the second week, once I had let go of my irrational overthinking (which had undoubtedly been aggravated by how much I missed my family), I had been able to fully immerse myself into this journey.

Becoming accustomed to such a drastic change (especially for me, growing up in the city) is easy, when you’re surrounded by such loving people. Looking back, I had no idea the residents here would become so dear to me. Every morning as I arrived on site, I would be greeted by a variety of smiles, laughter, waves, or even nods from residents who did not communicate much. One resident greets me everyday with ‘Good Morning! How are you? I am happy!!!’, which never fails to uplift me. One by one, I got to know the residents over the past month and a half, and they all have their own unique and interesting personalities.

Although many cannot speak, and our language barrier often comes in the way, it makes their gestures all the more meaningful. A simple smile and wave would put a smile on my face- one resident also loves kissing my hand as a ‘thank you’. I find myself being so completely overwhelmed with happiness at even the smallest of gestures from the residents. Being here has made me so appreciative for the smallest details. Laughing and smiling comes to easily and naturally to me now, so many things that they do makes me feel as though I’m on cloud 9. When they smile and are proud of themselves, I find myself too- engulfed by glee.

Upon reflection, I can honestly say that in the short time being here so far, having given it a chance despite my initial fears, I have grown so much as a person. I can wholeheartedly say that I am much more happier (which is always a good thing!), much more open minded and understanding, and much more patient. I came here with the intention of becoming a more compassionate, empathetic, open minded person, and I can already see the changes in myself and my attitude. Japan has also been such an amazing country to do this in- the people, the culture, everything about this country simply captivates you and you never want to leave. Akin to the mindsets of previous volunteers who I have spoken too, it simply takes the right attitude, and a willingness to push yourself out of your comfort zone for some time, for you to truly have one of the most life changing experiences you will ever get.”

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