Each year, alumni students are nominated to become GLA Global Citizen Storytellers. These are students who have been recognized for the passion, initiative, and drive they displayed during their respective programs, as well as their eagerness to share their stories with others.
We know how hectic these students' schedules can get during the school year - sports, extracurricular activities, SATs, part-time jobs, college planning, etc. - so we are extremely grateful to all our 2019 Storytellers who have taken the time to share stories about their GLA experience, and the impact these experiences had on their life.
Read some of their stories below and keep an eye out for more 2019 GLA Storyteller reflections coming soon!
Georgia Bennett, Dominican Republic: Building a Sustainable World
My trip to the Dominican Republic was life changing. Seeing another part of the world and how they live their day to day lives helped me open my eyes and broaden my horizons. I remember during the trip, I was helping cleaning up lunch and a little boy from the village tapped me on the shoulder. He held out a dented baseball with an inviting smile. He started speaking fast Spanish, which my 4 years of school Spanish was no help with understanding. But I finally managed to figured out he wanted to play a game of baseball with me.
These types of experiences shaped my understanding of the world and helped me realized that one small act of kindness can have a domino effect. The next day the boy was there with his baseball ready to rematch me. No other organization would allow me to create relationships with the people I am helping. GLA is an organization dedicated to creating relationships and memories that will last a lifetime.
Jamie Guterman, Peru: Service in the Sacred Valley
GLA was one of the most life-changing experiences of my life. Every service day that we completed, every adventure activity that we took part in, and every night laughing will be with me forever. Not only did I get to make amazing friends, I also learned so much about myself and the importance of leaping out of my comfort zone and pushing the limits of what I though was possible.
All of the staff were incredibly well trained and helped me to feel comfortable enough to use the space to grow as an individual. I loved every second of my experience, but rafting, hiking Machu Picchu, and the service days were some of my favorite highlights because they were experiences I could have never taken part in the U.S.. Thank you GLA!
Cara Dunleavy, Ghana: Children of Africa
Hi! I am a Global Leadership Adventures Alumni and I had an amazing trip with GLA. I choose Ghana: children of Africa and this was the best experience of my life. In Ghana, we lived in a house that was in the village I volunteered in. There wasn't ever any moment that I felt unsafe. At the age of 15, this was not only my first time traveling into Africa but my first time traveling alone.
I feel that I have grown a lot, everything from no longer having a single story of Africa to knowing how to check in my bags. I didn't know much about the culture. shortly after arriving we got a little history and visited a host family to learn how to speak some Krobo. The program staff were very supportive and were always there to talk if you needed anything. a million words can't begin to explain the love, joy, and so many more emotions from this trip.
Anna Vaine, Costa Rica: The Initiative for Children
I went on a trip to Costa Rica over the summer to work in elementary schools. It was, hands down, the best thing I’ve ever done. It opened my eyes to a whole different culture, and a whole host of opportunities that are open to me in the future. I have never felt more like I was doing what I was meant to be doing, than when I was laughing along with little kids, in the sweltering Costa Rican heat, that is so different from where I live.
I loved to hear about the stories that the kids shared, and to learn about each and every one of them. I also connected very deeply to the other volunteers in my group. They made me look at the world in a different way, and they made me realize many things about myself. These friends helped me through some very hard times, and I have never been more open with anyone than the people I met on that trip. The memories of this trip will always hold a special place in my heart, because it completely changed me as a person. If given the chance to do it again, I would not hesitate to do so.
Blair Belford, Galapagos: Perserving Nature's Wonders
My experience with GLA was, although it sounds cliché, life changing. I had so much fun and learned so much on my trip to the Galápagos. It was on this trip that I realized my passion for travel, the environment, and service. It was super inspiring to realize that while making lifelong friends and swimming alongside playful sea lions and sea turtles, I was making an environmental impact by bettering the habitats of the amazing giant tortoises and a social impact by playing soccer with adorable Ecuadorian kids, and bettering my Spanish with them.
I came home from the islands with a suitcase full of souvenirs, twelve lifelong friends with whom I am still in touch with today, and a complete new perspective on my life. Since then, I have had no hesitation deciding I want to do GLA again.
Reese Fortier, Haiti: Global Health Initiative
My experience in Haiti was unlike anything I could have ever imagined. From the second I got off the plane, I was in awe of how different it was from the world I had always known. Going to Haiti opened my eyes to issues I had only before read about in newspapers or seen on television. Working with my team of peers, I felt that I was making a real impact in the lives of others by providing them with health care, one of the most basic human needs but one that they had never had access to before. The best part of the entire trip was interacting with the Haitian locals. They were hilarious, joyful, and gracious.
They made my trip truly special, and by the end of the trip I had made real friends, despite a language barrier separating us. The Haitians taught me the power of community. They all pitched in and helped us build the school, from men with graying hair to little children who couldn't have been older than kindergarten-aged.
Haiti changed my life in that it opened my eyes to a whole new culture, a whole new world that before I was completely unaware of. Because of my trip, I know that I eventually want to do more service in a developing country because I absolutely love meeting, helping, and learning about new people. I will always remember my trip to Haiti as one of the best experiences of my life.
Kai Guevara, Tanzania: Children's Education Adventure
Global Leadership Adventures had shaped me into a more rounded, and mature person. They have exposed me to new perspectives, and new emotions that I would never have experienced before, all while helping me feel safe and healthy in my new environment. I have made lifelong friends, and experienced new emotions that have motivated me to use my voice in the world, and be the best version of myself that I can be.
After my trip I have changed: acting true to myself and doing my best to create happiness and change for others. Overall, Global Leadership Adventures has had tons of value on the course of my life, and I would recommend it to anybody who is looking to make a change.
Zoe Cote, Dominican Republic: Global Health Initiative
My experience with GLA this summer was phenomenal. I learned so much more about myself and the program really challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and see beyond the bubble of privilege I live in. I loved absolutely everything about the experience, including digging trenches in subtropical heat. The work was exhausting but by the end of the day, none of the sweat or blisters mattered at all because the result was so much more rewarding that I would have imagined.
I have never been so fulfilled by something so simple as pinning chicken wire to the framework of a bathroom. The positive impact of running water on a community is incredible and being able to provide that in a sustainable, mutually beneficial way for both you and the community is such an uplifting feeling.
In short, the program was the happiest I've been in a long time. I made friends I'll never forget, I became way more culturally competent, and I now know how to insulate a bathroom using recycled plastic water bottles. I loved it so much, I'm going on another GLA trip this summer. I would highly recommend GLA to anyone; it's for everyone.