Our youngest volunteer, Maria, joined The Power of Play (TPOP) when she was only 19 years old. After graduating high school, Maria decided she needed to explore the world, get to know herself and the meaning of her life before choosing a career or a specific university program in Germany. Originally, her plan was to go to South America to learn Spanish while volunteering there. However, COVID-19 decided otherwise, and Maria ended up in Rwanda for nine months. 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, Rwanda, but also introduced her to many friends he had already made there. From the second day in Rwanda, Maria had a new family of people who were making a difference in the lives of the local children. She instantly 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, help design a playground, build a swing, manage an entire playground build, 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 experience guided Maria to get to know herself further, to understand what she enjoys, and what she truly wants in life. Being hands on, on the ground, and impacting children is a lasting joy and a passion that will help guide her in the future 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 infected her entire family. In July of 2021, they joined her in Mukingo, Rwanda, including her younger brother Tomek to help build The Power of Play’s fifth playground. Tom really enjoyed helping with the playground build, the same way Maria’s parents enjoyed supporting the people of Mukingo with clothes and medical assistance.
Maria did not only develop experience in building and managing playgrounds for TPOP, but she also started a Mental Health Coaching online education program while in Rwanda. Her own personal development while working for TPOP inspired her to learn more about mental health. Through this online 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, thanks to volunteering for TPOP for nine months
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.