I served as a full-time volunteer representative of my church in the southern region of Spain for 18 months. Before beginning, I spoke absolutely no Spanish, but after only 3 months of learning, I was fluent enough to have conversations with people I met on the street. Everything I did involved working closely with people: I lived and worked with one other volunteer at a time, and we would constantly meet new people, get to know them and spend our time focusing on their needs and how best to help them. I also served in leadership positions in which I had the responsibilities of teaching and supervising up to 30 other missionaries at a time, traveling 2 or more days each week to visit other groups of volunteers, and presenting at seminars on effective work and teaching. I lived and worked in 4 different cities: Alicante, Málaga, Dos Hermanas (Sevilla) and Jerez. Many of the people I met changed their lives for the better: my companions and I helped some of them to stop smoking, others to find the motivation to resolve issues within their families, and others to find a reason not to give up. I also frequently taught English and French classes, some piano classes, and helped with service projects including moving, painting houses, and assisting local church leaders, among other things.
In 2013, I volunteered as an intern for eight weeks with the organization Les Petits Frères des Pauvres in Paris, France. Les Petits Frères is a nonprofit organization that focuses on accompanying the elderly, but in a different way than you might expect. Their motto is “Des fleurs avant le pain,” which translates to “Flowers before bread,” and means that even though everyone needs food and shelter, friendship and company are also important. My main responsibility within the organization was to visit and spend time with ten different elderly persons. I visited two or three of them each day, and I would spend anywhere from half an hour to a few hours with each one, depending on their level of awareness and ability to hold a conversation. I talked to them, read them stories and poems, let them tell me stories of their own, and often let them correct my French – they loved that! There were about ten other volunteers from all around the world, and we worked together with the supervisors to organize special outings and events for the elderly who were able to leave their houses. We planned visits to the city gardens, boat rides down the Seine, and catered dinners. The best part was getting to hear the stories of each person I visited. I became close with many of them, and it felt so good to know that because I was there, they had someone to talk to and didn’t feel so lonely anymore.
BYU Earth Stewardship
Last year, I joined the Earth Stewardship club at my university. It’s a student organization focused on taking good care of the Earth’s resources, reducing waste, conserving natural lands, and educating our community about what it means to be stewards of the Earth. Earlier this year, I volunteered to help out with our booth for BYU’s Care Week, where we were raising money for the organization Empower Playgrounds, a group that installs playgrounds for children in poor communities in Africa. The playgrounds they install also generate electricity as the children play, which they use to charge portable lamps that the children can use to study with instead of using dangerous kerosene lamps or having no light at all. As part of the fundraiser, I encouraged many of my friends and colleagues to attend a fundraiser dinner and presentation about the project.
In April, I helped at an event we organized to raise awareness for our club and encourage recycling at our school. We built a structure out of cardboard in the middle of our university campus, and invited any students who passed by to come and paint on the structure. We gave out information about recycling options and about our club. We also encouraged everyone to sign a thank you letter to a few local and global organizations, expressing gratitude for the efforts they’ve made to switch to sustainable resources and conserve the natural beauty of the Earth.