Why international volunteering can change your life? part 1

Catalina Marín

CEO of Icye Colombia and volunteer in Hungary (2012-2013), United Kingdom (2009-2010).

I was recently wondering how my life had changed since I first heard the word “volunteering”.

I remember I was still in high school and was told that performing “social service” was a requirement for my degree. I opted to give a few hours at the emblematic Virgilio Barco Library in the city of Bogota. At the time I didn’t really understand why or what I was going to use that time for, instead of dedicating it to other more important things like basketball, friends and family outings. I just thought that at least it was going to be an excellent opportunity to read a lot of books during those vacations.

Vacations went by and by the time I realized it, those 80 hours of social service were coming to an end. I had already become familiar with a place I didn’t know, I had become fond of the endless aisles of books, I had classified and ordered hundreds of volumes, I had made a couple of friends (the most endearing was Pity, whom I always remember with infinite affection and of whom I still have a tiny little caiman for my hair and who later would be connected to the world of music and other endearing characters that came into my life), but above all, I had remained in SILENCE most of my time there (obviously because it was a library). I had the chance to think a lot about what I was going to do for the rest of my life – ha ha ha, the truth is that volunteering takes you to unexpected places -, and it helped me prepare for those last few months before graduating from high school.

There a new world opened up for me where I understood that volunteering had brought a lot of new things to my life that “out of obligation” became a delight for that time.

I went back to school from vacation with a lot of experiences and years later, my unconscious -although I think it was more conscious than I want to think-, looked for a way to leave the country through the volunteer program. I came to Icye Colombia in 2004. Thus, I embarked at 19 years old on a plane with a backpack and a thousand illusions towards a social project in the city of Loughborough (United Kingdom).

In PART TWO of this blog, I will tell you how that experience was.