Ten Things I Learned as a Volunteer in Mexico

1. Be flexible!

In life things don’t always go as planned, and trips are no different. Sometimes traffic may make you late for your reservation or the restaurant might be closed unexpectedly. Everyone tries their best and sometimes we have to go to plan B, but it all works out. Even at the orphanage, projects may be delayed for any number of reasons; so then we help cook or play with the kids. Have the expectation that things can change.

2. The itinerary can shift.

Though there is an itinerary, it can be hard to keep fifty people on the same exact schedule. Have a plan but don’t stress if things don’t happen exactly on the hour. The itinerary is mostly there to add structure and to guide the group.

3. The orphanage staff is so fun to talk to and connect with!

Take time to play with the kids but don’t forget about the adults, they’re good people and talking to them can also be fun and enhance your experience. They’re super easy to connect with and have super cool stories.

4. The kids just wanna spend time with you. But sometimes they don’t, and that’s fine.

We don’t force the kids to do anything they don’t want to. We respect them and their feelings and the rules as well. Don’t be offended if an individual kid isn’t in the mood to play.

5. The food is SO GOOD!

Try everything! Ask for recommendations from the kids and staff for any special candy or snacks in the area. There are some weird combinations but you might be surprised at what you end up liking! The tacos al pastor are one of a kind, and pica fresa (the spicy strawberry candies), are very good as well.

6. Get to know the other volunteers.

The other volunteers are all good people and you share the common desire to do good. Get to know the people in the group and find out what made them decide to come. Relationships often last beyond the trip, so look for opportunities to serve and to get to know everyone.

7. There may be moments when you feel underutilized.

You may want to help with, or fix a lot of things that you just can’t, and that’s ok. There are more problems to be solved that you can solve. Bigger issues exist. Focus on what you can do and have a back-up plan. Bring games or cleaning supplies to use if there’s extra time, or ask for extra work. It’s normal at some point to feel like you don’t know what to do, but ask the other volunteers what they’re working on or ask the host and staff what else there is to be done. Have your own plan as well. You can make this trip your own so be prepared.

8. Some drivers and roads are actually INSANE.

The roads are crazy. Once you leave the highway there can be potholes and speed bumps. Be aware of signs and traffic rules and ask your host if you have any questions. Drive defensively and be alert even if you’re a passenger.

9. Your visit is a vacation for kids that never go on vacation.

This might be your family’s vacation, but it’s also a much needed time off for the kids. They are just happy to have you there, they know it means you care about them and they miss you when you leave. It’s good for the orphans to have people visit and it isn’t damaging when the groups leave and are constantly replaced by new ones. The kids are just happy to have you and the idea is to help build relationships and to show them that they’re important and that people care about them.

10. There are so many ways to make an impact with every single person. 

Get to know everyone you can. In addition to the orphanage workers and children there are restaurant owners, waiters, people in stores, etc. Though there might sometime be a language barrier take every opportunity you can to build connections. Click here to learn more about upcoming service trips!

Together, we’re lifting orphans from surviving to thriving.

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