Personal Learning through Service
Vanessa Soaft is a fourth-year sociology student.
ASB has had a profound impact on my experience at Carleton and on who I am as a person. It has instilled in me the desire not to volunteer but to serve, and to learn from every experience that I have and every person that I meet.
I have participated in the program twice – last year I travelled to Cuernavaca, Mexico and worked on rebuilding houses in an impoverished community, and this year I travelled to El Chile, Nicaragua and helped build a school. Each experience has affected me differently, and taught me new things both about the communities that I served in and about myself.
In my first ASB experience I had a certain set of expectations. I wanted to help improve the lives of others, and I wanted to make an impact in another country. What I learned during the week of service was that CSL was a two-way partnership with the members of the community and with those I worked alongside with. I learned a lot about the people I met, what their day-to-day lives consisted of, what they enjoyed, what they struggled with, and much more. They taught me a lot about what community really is as I watched them all selflessly working together on many occasions to support each other.
This year I went into the program expecting to be impacted by the people that I met – but once again I underestimated just how much of an impact they would have on me. From the first time we met our host family, or walked up to the school on our first day of work, I felt an immense sense of warmth and kindness. The family that we stayed with taught me a lot about compassion and caring, from watching the way that they interacted with each other and through the way that they reached out to us.
I learned a lot about myself and the person that I want to be. I ache to see the world, to learn about new cultures, and to make an impact on every place that I travel. I learned to be more appreciative of what I have, and to treasure the relationships that I have. Living in a fast-paced, busy world you sometimes forget to stop and just cherish the moment, but while we were in Nicaragua I got the chance to do this. My favourite memories from the trip are the times that we got to play with the children from the school that we were working on. I love the idea that no matter where you go in this world or what language you speak you can always find a way to connect to another. Despite the fact that I don’t speak Spanish, I was still able to form bonds with the children and play with them. Being able to laugh, smile and be silly together was an amazing feeling. It also felt amazing knowing how happy they were to have us there, and feeling just as happy to be there myself.
Submitted by Vanessa Soaft, a fourth-year sociology student.
To learn more about ASB, visit the website.