PROSPERITY — Every year for her birthday, Jamie Long asks for donations for charity: water (www.charitywater.org/), an organization whose mission is to bring clean and safe drinking water to every person on the planet.
This year, 29-year-old Long chose to take a more hands-on approach, which she hopes will greatly impact the lives of others.
On May 25, Long will pack her bags with the destination of Cuzco, Peru, where she will be volunteering to teach English in the schools there.
“I wanted to do something different this year,” Long said. “But it’s still a way for others to give back.”
Long, who graduated from Mid-Carolina High School in 2003, took a trip the summer of her junior year in high school, where she travelled to Ireland, Scotland and England. She was also bit by the travel bug.
Since then, Long has visited Colorado, been on cruises, and has visited a friend in Brooklyn.
“I wanted to go to a Spanish speaking country,” Long said.
With several major changes in her life recently, Long said the trip seemed like a great idea.
“I’ve wanted to go on a volunteer trip for a long time but never had the courage to do it,” Long said.
Long’s trip to Peru is possible through the International Volunteer HQ program, which provides affordable volunteer abroad programs in developing countries all over the world. Each year, International Volunteer IQ places thousands of volunteers in programs abroad and has a wide range of volunteering opportunities in more than 20 countries.
The trip will be spread over a four-week period, where Long will assist teachers in schools, work in after-school type programs with children, and more.
“I won’t know everything for sure I will be doing until I get there,” she said.
Long said that in Cuzco, learning to speak English is very important to their community.
“Tourism is very important to them,” Long said. “Most want to be tour guides.”
While in Peru, Long has the option to live with someone else volunteering on the trip, while taking Spanish lessons each day, or participate in a “home-stay” program where she would live with a local family.
Although she is not quite sure which option she’s taking at this point, Long said she believes she will learn the language better by living with a local family.
To travel to Peru to teach, Long has set the goal of raising $3,000 to cover the program costs and fees, flights, room and board, travel insurance, and other expenses she might face while out of the country.
To raise the necessary funds, Long set up a gofundme account, which can be found at www.gofundme.com/76zcgg. She also has a jar set up at Sligh’s Superette, where she works on Highway 391 in Prosperity where customers have had the opportunity to donate to her cause.
Long has raised $1,025 from her gofundme account, and more has been added from the jar at Sligh’s. Long said the first week she had the jar out, she was able to raise over $300.
Preparing for Travel
Long said she’s been refreshing and brushing up on the Spanish she learned while in high school to prepare herself somewhat for the language barriers.
“If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it,” she said. “I’ve been brushing up so I’m not completely at a loss when I get there.”
Long has also purchased books about Peru to get a feel for the culture.
After looking up the distance from the small town of Prosperity where all of her family calls home, the 3,300 plus miles she’ll be putting between them can be scary.
“I go between being really excited and terrified,” Long said.
Following this trip, Long said if she feels it’s something she could enjoy, she might get certified to teach English as a second language and travel to other countries to do similar tasks.
“Traveling and helping people are two of my favorite things, so I think it’s a good combination,” she said.
Long said her mother was probably most weary at first of her trip to Peru, but said that if it was something she felt she wanted to do, then she would support it.
“The more we’ve talked about it, the more excited she gets,” Long said.
Because her friends and family know this trip is something Long has wanted to do for a long time, she said they’ve really been pushing her to follow through.
“I’ve got a really good support system,” Long said.