By Endrina Fernandez
At the beginning of my senior year at UF, my friend and I came across Children Beyond Our Borders at Plaza of the Americas (back in 2014). We were both excited to apply and venture to a new country, a new city, a new everything. Shortly after my application I received an email for an interview at Library West; this adventure was becoming more real to me. Later on, I got my acceptance letter and dates for our training. Nothing felt real until I stepped out of the airplane and saw Yosimar holding a "Welcome CBOB Family" banner.
The apartment was luxurious, the pool looked amazing, my group of volunteers was hilarious. I could not complain; I was in paradise. Then we had our first day at the foundation at Granitos de Paz. Holy Crap! Who knew you could fall in love with so many kids in a split second! They see you and their eyes light up, they rush to hug you, and it just feels like unconditional love. Monday through Friday, as a group, we would present our workshops and bond with the kids. Some kids would pull me aside to tell me secrets, some called me "mom", and others just wanted to hug me or be by my side all day. It could get a bit exhausting because kids do have tons of energy, but it was worth it. We became this huge family in less than two weeks.
Our last day consisted of a war, a water balloon war. We split into teams and rushed to fill up as many balloons as we could. Everyone could not stop laughing. This fulfilling experience that made our goodbyes with torn tears and long hugs. Nobody wanted to leave.
As you see, a Bound for Peace Trip becomes more than just a trip, it's a life-changing experience. You learn to appreciate your life a bit more. You learn to smile more. It's a feeling hard to explain but you feel like you made a change in someone's world. I have not met someone who did not enjoy their trip. Now I became the Director of Service Trips, because I may not have the eligibility to attend each trip, but I can assure the traditions continue on with every generation. I can make sure kids know I am there in spirit by face-timing a volunteer and chatting with the kids. I miss them all. And that was just a brief summary of my first Bound for Peace Trip to Cartagena in 2015.
Endrina Fernandez is the Director of the Service Trip Program for CBOB. She received a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology from the University of Florida.