As cliché as it sounds, my volunteer trip changed my life

Ryerson volunteers paint a newly built latrine in India.(Courtesy Mallory Warren)

Ryerson volunteers paint a newly built latrine in India. (Courtesy Mallory Warren)

While I’ve liked travelling all of my life, I never knew what it really meant to travel until I took my first volunteer trip. I went to India this past May for a month to volunteer and now I’m totally hooked on travel.

But, not the kind of travel where you sit on a beautiful beach for a week.

I want to do the kind of travel where you go to places you never envisioned yourself going. I want to experience more travel where I can fully immerse myself in another culture.

My trip to India was with a student group called Alternative Spring Break Ryerson. They run volunteer trips abroad each year. Along with 10 other Ryerson students, I embarked on a trip that for some of my fellow travellers was the farthest from home they had ever been.

Our project was based in a small village in southern India where we built latrines for local houses. We also installed backup solar panels for when the power goes out at schools and hospitals.

Usha, a woman who cooked our meals in India was hard for the team to say goodbye to. (Courtesy Alana Pitamber)

It was especially difficult for the team to say goodbye to Usha. (Courtesy Alana Pitamber)

It was such a different experience to give back to people you’ve never met rather than waiting for the waiter to serve you at a pool bar.

One thing that was really interesting about volunteering in another country was interacting with people despite the language barrier. It was amazing to really connect with people despite not being able to speak Tamil or Malayalam. Many of the people we met only knew a few words of English but, through body language and gestures, we overcame that barrier.

One of the hardest goodbyes for our team was parting with Usha, the woman who cooked all of our meals for us. It was almost like you could taste her love through her traditional cooking. It was tough parting ways.

Before my trip, many people told me that they would never think to travel to India. I don’t think you should ever rule out a specific place to travel to as you can find beauty in any place. You will also find out more about yourself when you put yourself in a place you never thought you’d go to.

Since coming back from India, I can’t wait to go there again.



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