Meet our new researcher and content writer, Katie Raynak

Hola a todos, my name is Katie and I am a new blog assistant for! Santiago, Chile is my current home where I am participating in a year-long professional volunteer program through an international foundation founded in Chile about 15 years ago.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I developed an afición for volunteering, but since I can remember, I was always drawn to opportunities to involve myself in my surrounding community. I had learned from a young age that volunteering was the best way to become more socially aware and help make a visible difference in my own environment. 

After graduating from the University of Arizona in May 2014, I headed south to partake in a professional volunteer program that desires to combat poverty and social inequality by mobilizing young professionals about the Americas to collaborate with local NGOs. Volunteers are matched with projects that correspond to their professional skill set and interests. They can take initiative and make fitting changes in order to materialize project objectives, rather than being given a project that is beyond their capabilities. Volunteers work full time positions with their host NGO, so this civil organization provides their travel expenses to and from the host country and a monthly stipend to cover expenses each month. The foundation places volunteers in a living situation where they can empathize with and experience how their own beneficiaries live. Even though we receive a modest amount each month and live without lujos, we interact and work with individuals much less fortunate—and are thus challenged to recognize social inequality and vulnerability.

In Santiago, I volunteer with a local NGO that works to keep at-risk youth from dropping out of school. Before arriving to my site project, the two foundations developed a set of goals to be realized by the volunteer, so this project has certain expectations for results which project supervisors routinely evaluate. Along with attending workshops for the students and visiting schools, I am composing a diagnostic analysis of the current model that the organization uses and devising ways to connect families, schools, and communities. I was specifically drawn to this project because it has a clear focus, connects with my past experience with youth development, and brings together students, families, schools, and communities to address a problem. 

I cannot even begin to describe my excitement to be working with—the world of volunteering really deserves more attention. It simply starts with identifying an issue and taking the initiative to be part of the change, but a change that truly makes a positive difference.

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