Changing Lives around the World: Georgian Court Athletes in Action

Anxiously waiting alone for eight hours in a foreign airport or nervously traipsing your way through an unknown Ecuadorian city may not be ideal situations for any traveler, but for two Georgian Court University student-athletes, it was the beginning of two life-changing experiences.

Contributed by Adriana Fraser

Through the international volunteer organization UBELONG, Jamie-Lee Sonnenberg-Smith and Kristina “Tina” Morgan found a way make an impact while fulfilling their desires to travel abroad.

“I know I wanted to go abroad, but I didn’t want to do the typical study abroad,” says Jamie-Lee. “I wanted to actually go and help people.”

Jamie-Lee, a senior history major and soccer player, recommended UBELONG to Tina who also had hopes of studying abroad but found it too expensive. Tina, a softball player who graduated in August 2014, discovered that becoming an international volunteer would garner an experience more fulfilling than the traditional study abroad route.

“Being able to serve in another country fit my personality,” says Tina.

kakum

Jamie Lee Sonnenberg-Smith participated with UBELONG, a non-governmental organization aiming to ease human trafficking and child labor abuses.

GCU SERVICE ABROAD: Read students' writing, see their photos

Visit http://armchairtraveler.gcublogs.org/service-abroad/ to see photos from Jamie and Tina’s travels to Ghana and Ecuador, respectively.

Founded in 2004, UBELONG has helped individuals find an opportunity to travel while taking part in positive global change. UBELONG’s mission “to bring people together across borders to share their humanity and take action for positive change” has helped students like Jamie-Lee and Tina to become global citizens in an interesting way. UBELONG pairs volunteers with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have volunteer projects happening in different parts of the world.

With similar interests in mind, both students had unique experiences that not only changed their outlook on the world, but also shaped their understanding of being a global citizen.

Paired with the Cheerful Hearts Foundation (CHF), Jamie-Lee traveled to Kasoa, Ghana, where she assisted in the Education Standards Project. CHF provides teaching volunteer opportunities in partnership with the Ghana Education Service, Awutu Senya District, and private schools within the community, placing volunteers in areas where their assistance is needed.

For five weeks, Jamie-Lee taught English and Ghana citizenship to sixth graders twice a week. Although she wasn’t aware that she would be teaching, she embraced the experience.

“I’m glad I did get to teach because the kids were amazing,” she says.

Jamie-Lee’s interest in CHF’s project in Ghana stemmed from her desire to pursue a career in international affairs with an emphasis on human rights. Through the Education Standards Project, she learned more about the child trafficking and child labor that takes place in Ghana. Her experience helped her realize that for most of the families living in Kasoa, their only means of eating and sustaining their livelihood is to send their children to nearby fishing villages, where most of the child labor takes place. While immersed in the Ghanaian way of life, Jamie-Lee embraced the “no shaking,” or worry-free essence of the Kasoa residents while understanding the issues they endured daily.

Tina’s interest in traveling abroad helped her to find something that she could commit all of her passions to while making a difference. Paired with the Reforestation and Conservation Project, she found a way to make an impact in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. The objective of the reforestation project was to reclaim the vegetation cover and expand the forest zone that had been affected by deforestation.

For three weeks, Tina spent each day providing help in the Amazon, ranging from preparing the soil for crops to harvesting fruits and vegetables. Every day brought more demanding physical labor.

“Each day of work was completely different,” the biology graduate says.

In addition to maintaining vegetable gardens and assisting the families in nearby communities, Tina found the greatest joy in getting to know the people that lived near the Amazon.

“We would hang out with [the reservation workers] a lot and learn what their culture is like and exchange knowledge,” she notes. “That was my favorite part.”

Both Tina and Jamie-Lee’s experiences volunteering abroad helped them to understand the significance of being global citizens.

Learn more about GCU’s Global Transformation Intitiative and COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning)

Although their experiences differed, both realized the importance of appreciating the quality of life as opposed to the conditions that surrounds a person’s life. Whether it was embracing the laid back “no shaking” Ghanaian way of life or appreciating the sense of community and togetherness of those living in the Ecuadorian Amazon, both women gained a refreshing understanding of the world around them that will be an inspiration for their future endeavors.

This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2014 edition of GCU Magazine.

Anxiously waiting alone for eight hours in a foreign airport or nervously traipsing your way through an unknown Ecuadorian city may not be ideal situations for any traveler, but for two Georgian Court University student-athletes, it was the beginning of two life-changing experiences.

Contributed by Adriana Fraser

Through the international volunteer organization UBELONG, Jamie-Lee Sonnenberg-Smith and Kristina “Tina” Morgan found a way make an impact while fulfilling their desires to travel abroad.

“I know I wanted to go abroad, but I didn’t want to do the typical study abroad,” says Jamie-Lee. “I wanted to actually go and help people.”

Jamie-Lee, a senior history major and soccer player, recommended UBELONG to Tina who also had hopes of studying abroad but found it too expensive. Tina, a softball player who graduated in August 2014, discovered that becoming an international volunteer would garner an experience more fulfilling than the traditional study abroad route.

“Being able to serve in another country fit my personality,” says Tina.

kakum

Jamie Lee Sonnenberg-Smith participated with UBELONG, a non-governmental organization aiming to ease human trafficking and child labor abuses.

GCU SERVICE ABROAD: Read students' writing, see their photos

Visit http://armchairtraveler.gcublogs.org/service-abroad/ to see photos from Jamie and Tina’s travels to Ghana and Ecuador, respectively.

Founded in 2004, UBELONG has helped individuals find an opportunity to travel while taking part in positive global change. UBELONG’s mission “to bring people together across borders to share their humanity and take action for positive change” has helped students like Jamie-Lee and Tina to become global citizens in an interesting way. UBELONG pairs volunteers with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that have volunteer projects happening in different parts of the world.

With similar interests in mind, both students had unique experiences that not only changed their outlook on the world, but also shaped their understanding of being a global citizen.

Paired with the Cheerful Hearts Foundation (CHF), Jamie-Lee traveled to Kasoa, Ghana, where she assisted in the Education Standards Project. CHF provides teaching volunteer opportunities in partnership with the Ghana Education Service, Awutu Senya District, and private schools within the community, placing volunteers in areas where their assistance is needed.

For five weeks, Jamie-Lee taught English and Ghana citizenship to sixth graders twice a week. Although she wasn’t aware that she would be teaching, she embraced the experience.

“I’m glad I did get to teach because the kids were amazing,” she says.

Jamie-Lee’s interest in CHF’s project in Ghana stemmed from her desire to pursue a career in international affairs with an emphasis on human rights. Through the Education Standards Project, she learned more about the child trafficking and child labor that takes place in Ghana. Her experience helped her realize that for most of the families living in Kasoa, their only means of eating and sustaining their livelihood is to send their children to nearby fishing villages, where most of the child labor takes place. While immersed in the Ghanaian way of life, Jamie-Lee embraced the “no shaking,” or worry-free essence of the Kasoa residents while understanding the issues they endured daily.

Tina’s interest in traveling abroad helped her to find something that she could commit all of her passions to while making a difference. Paired with the Reforestation and Conservation Project, she found a way to make an impact in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. The objective of the reforestation project was to reclaim the vegetation cover and expand the forest zone that had been affected by deforestation.

For three weeks, Tina spent each day providing help in the Amazon, ranging from preparing the soil for crops to harvesting fruits and vegetables. Every day brought more demanding physical labor.

“Each day of work was completely different,” the biology graduate says.

In addition to maintaining vegetable gardens and assisting the families in nearby communities, Tina found the greatest joy in getting to know the people that lived near the Amazon.

“We would hang out with [the reservation workers] a lot and learn what their culture is like and exchange knowledge,” she notes. “That was my favorite part.”

Both Tina and Jamie-Lee’s experiences volunteering abroad helped them to understand the significance of being global citizens.

Learn more about GCU’s Global Transformation Intitiative and COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning)

Although their experiences differed, both realized the importance of appreciating the quality of life as opposed to the conditions that surrounds a person’s life. Whether it was embracing the laid back “no shaking” Ghanaian way of life or appreciating the sense of community and togetherness of those living in the Ecuadorian Amazon, both women gained a refreshing understanding of the world around them that will be an inspiration for their future endeavors.

This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2014 edition of GCU Magazine.

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