All of our volunteers are amazing, but Sonja and her dedication to finish what she started, amidst a global pandemic really embodies everything that EFTC stands for. In March 2020, as Covid-19 began to hit Guatemala, all our volunteers made their way home apart from Sonja. Now back at home, in the lead up to World EFTC Day, we talked to Sonja about reflections on her time at The School of Hope and why she chose to stay.
EFTC: You were the only volunteer during Covid and got involved in everything from food parcel distribution to fundraising and outreach social media. But which parts of your internship did you enjoy the most?
Sonja : Oooh that’s a tricky question as everyday was so different. Before lockdown I’d be interviewing students for the website blog and reporting on the school’s football tournament. When lockdown started I got to assist with food parcel distribution. It was incredible to see the staff come together and assist the families during such a difficult time. Everyone had a smile on their face and the distribution was so slick. It truly showed the commitment to community. My most memorable day was definitely Carnival Day. Suddenly my filing duties were disrupted by a fancy dress contest and children running around breaking eggs filled with “pica pica" on each other (and me!).
EFTC: What did you find the most tricky about living under lockdown?
Sonja: The weekends when we were not allowed to leave the house from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. Staying inside wasn’t ideal, especially when the weather was nice, but I was lucky to move in with Jennifer from the foundation so I had someone spend time with outside working hours.
EFTC: What lasting memories will you hold with you from your time in Guatemala?
Sonja: Where to begin…I made some great friends with the other volunteers. We travelled together during the weekends and explored the food and drink scene in Antigua in our free time. We are all in different countries at the moment but still keep in touch! Guatemala is a beautiful country and the people are friendly and welcoming. I got to hike an volcano - Acatenango - and watched an active one - Fuego - erupt in close distance (scary! ) and tried surfing at El Paredon beach.
Everyone at the School was so welcoming and supportive. Because of them I felt comfortable staying in Guatemala when COVID-19 hit. Shoutout to Kellen and Jen for being awesome! I also enjoyed living with one of the Guatemalan “host mothers” for the first few months, we still keep in touch and send each other updates.
EFTC: Why did you decide to become a volunteer ?
Sonja: After finishing my undergraduate degree in International Relations, I wanted some first-hand experience from an NGO in a developing country. I wanted a way to combine some gap-year travel with gaining work experience. I also wanted to improve my Spanish language skills, so volunteering in Guatemala was the perfect choice!
EFTC: What tips would you have for prospective volunteers?
Sonja: DO IT! Even with COVID, volunteering in Guatemala was one of the best experiences of my life. I gained valuable skills and work experience in a field which I hope to pursue, after completing my masters in Human Rights at LSE. I was a bit nervous to leave for the other side of the world on my own, but that feeling disappeared the second I arrived at The School of Hope, because everyone was so helpful and welcoming.
One more tip: It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Spanish, a smile will go a long way (and a wave to the Prepas students!)
EFTC: As we reach around the globe for World EFTC Day on March 16th - we are asking our supporters all the same question. Why do you love EFTC?
Sonja: The work that EFTC does for its community is invaluable. And for a volunteer - if you want to learn about and get involved in the day-to-day workings of an NGO, EFTC is the perfect place to go.
Sonja volunteered at the School of Hope from January 2020 after an undergraduate degree in International Relations, at King’s College London. If you are interested in volunteering with EFTC we'd love to hear from you.....