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Student Spotlight: Painting Houses in Spain

by Connie K. Ho | August 22nd, 2011

During my study abroad experience in Spain, I felt that it was necessary to become involved in the community. I had always volunteered in the United States, and I thought it was only fitting to continue my passion for service in Madrid. ONG La Voluntad was an organization that I had become familiar with while studying at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. I had heard that they would be painting houses in the community after reading a sign that had been posted in front of the girls’ restroom.

I contacted Elvira, the girl that had been listed on the poster. She recommended that, before attending the event, I first visit the Residencia Balsain to for an informational orientation. At the orientation, the volunteer coordinator, Elena, played a video showcasing the organization and I was really excited to get involved. She wrote down the metro stop and time for the service event, and that’s where I found myself the next day. When I arrived, much of the painting of the houses had been finished but I still did as much as I could. I was able to practice my limited Spanish with the girls. I felt great to give back to the community and doing what I could. Elena was nice enough to take photos of me painting a concrete wall, so that I could show my parents at home.

With the event done, I headed back with the volunteers. I met a few who lived in the Residencia; many where surprised I was from California and would shout out, “Que Guay!  How cool!” They asked me about the Beach Boys, and I in turn told them about my family and my experience as an exchange student. They were surprised to hear about my life in the United States and it was cool to have such a global exchange of ideas. To my surprise, they invited me to attend more events at the hall. With that small request, I felt like the luckiest person in the world and it was at that moment that I realized that I was starting to make new friends in Spain.

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