UCF grad to lead volunteer trip to South Africa
Traveling abroad during college is an experience most never forget. With International Student Volunteers' abroad program you can travel, make an impact, bolster your résumé and possibly get college credit.
ISV, which regional director Caroline Walker said is an organization that promotes sustainable development initiatives around the world, incorporates university and high school volunteers.
"We take groups of students overseas to six different countries and we do two-week volunteer projects that support the local communities environment and then [volunteers] have an opportunity to do a second two weeks, which is an adventure tour to explore as much as possible," Walker said.
Tania Rodrigues, a UCF graduate student, first heard about ISV through a mass email from the College of Health and Public Affairs. Rodrigues' interest was piqued and this summer she will be leading a trip to South Africa.
"I grew up living oversees in a military family. I traveled a lot and participated in a lot of service projects growing up and I still volunteer a lot now so that was primarily why I wanted to do it," Rodrigues said.
The trip will focus on community development and is from July 10 to Aug. 7. Rodrigues is looking to recruit 12 students for the trip, and even those who are not attending UCF can get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Twenty-five people have inquired; eight applications have gone in but no one has paid the deposit yet, which actually confirms that they are going on the trip. [So] all 12 spots are open," Rodrigues said.
The two biggest reservations students have, Rodrigues said, are concerns of safety and issues with money.
"I think people are thinking about how much it costs rather than the value of what they're going to get from this. The experience is invaluable so the cost is not even relatable to what they'll experience while they're there," she said.
She mentioned that there has never been a safety issue on an ISV trip and that there are fundraising opportunities available for students seeking financial help.
Lana Codina, a high school friend of Rodrigues and a student at the University of Northern Iowa, is actively working to cover the deposit for the trip.
"I grew up in Europe so it was really easy for me to always travel. As an adult, any opportunities that I have to travel to another country, I'd really like to take it," Codina said. "With ISV in particular, what really attracted me to their program is they have a lot of different options for what you could do even within the South Africa trip specifically."
Rodrigues won't know the exact mission of her trip until at least eight people commit. At that point, it will be assigned to her.
"Volunteers can expect an experience that is both cultural and educational and adventurous," Walker said. "They're going to have a chance to be completely immersed in South African culture and [Rodrigues is] going to be working in a community development project so they're going to have an opportunity to do some health and education programs in rural areas and work with sustainable development in the communities with some of the kids and the families who are there and need some support from the volunteers."
Rodrigues looks forward not only to the impact the trip will make on the people of South Africa, but also the impact it will make on the group that ultimately chooses to join her.
As Codina said: "The greatest education that someone can have is to cross cultural boundaries and have a sense of purpose [while] giving back to the community at the same time."
Alex Wexelman is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at email@example.com.