Our youngest volunteer, Maria, joined The Power of Play (TPOP) when she was only 19 years old. After graduating from high school, Maria felt she needed to explore the world and get to know herself better before choosing a career or a university program. Originally, her plan was to go to South America to learn Spanish while volunteering. However, COVID-19 intervened, and Maria wound up in Rwanda. There, she met Reza, the founder of TPOP, in December 2020. He not only included her in the building of one of the first children’s playgrounds in Kerezo, Mubuga, Nyamagana, and Nyarutovu, but also introduced her to friends that he had made there. From her second day in Rwanda, Maria had a new family who were making a difference in the lives of the local children. She fell in love with the people of Rwanda and The Power of Play.
Over the next nine months, Maria learned how to use power tools. She helped design a playground, build a swing, and how to promote TPOP on social media. She gained invaluable skills as a project manager, carpenter, painter, community organizer, and social media manager. This combination of experiences guided Maria to get to know herself further, to understand what she enjoys, and what she wants out of life. Being hands-on, on the ground, and impacting children is a lasting joy and a passion that will help guide her in the years to come.
While volunteering for TPOP, Maria learned to enjoy being in the moment. She also discovered that she enjoys working with children and watching them play. Her enthusiasm for Rwanda and The Power of Play’s projects spread to her family. In July of 2021, her parents and her younger brother, Tomek, joined her in Mukingo, Rwanda to help build TPOP’s fifth playground. Tomek enjoyed helping with the construction the same way her parents enjoyed supporting the people of Mukingo with clothes and medical assistance.
Maria also started an online education Mental Health Coaching program. Her own personal development while working for TPOP inspired her to learn more about mental health. Through this program, Maria learned how to deal with difficult life situations and how to help others to do the same.
The 19-year-old teenager who left for Rwanda has become a mature young lady that has developed a passion for helping others. She has acquired greater cultural sensitivity, become more adept at intercultural communication, learned about community development and outreach, and has learned to engage with diverse populations and project beneficiaries, all thanks to her nine months of volunteering for TPOP.
Why should YOU become a volunteer for TPOP? Maybe you are ready to take part in a project that makes a difference in children’s lives. Maybe you want to experience different cultures and other people’s lives. Or maybe you want to grow personally, learn new skills, and see purpose in your daily life. Whatever stage of life you are in right now, I can promise you that it can be as beautiful and fulfilling as Maria’s life has become through volunteering with The Power of Play.