By: Elaine Ueda, Spring 2014 Work and Travel participant

Elaine worked for a Summer Work Travel employer in Billings, Montana. Elaine had a great time in Billings. Read her volunteer adventures below.

Everything in our life seems to be planned. There is a reason and purpose for everything. Participating in the Work and Travel program has been such a blessing. It has been an absolute blast because of all of the experiences, memories, mistakes that I’ve had. All of these experiences are pieces to my puzzle: the puzzle of my life. Every day I experience new things (pieces of my puzzle) and I attempt to make sense of them and fit the pieces together. This can be quite hard, but I am certain that my puzzle will come together through new experiences.

Before I joined the Work and Travel program, I had so many plans for my life, and so many different goals. One of my hopes, past and present, is to make a difference in the world. I really want to advocate for the preservation, restoration and conservation of the environment, and natural habitat of species. Also, I want to be able to educate children. Basically, we need funds to help others and do a project for the environment. I don’t have a large amount of funds to help, but I do have a big heart that cares for the world and every species in it, including us, humans. As I heard about Work and Travel program, I became curious as to what it involved.  Yes, I knew that I’d be working, traveling, and earning money, but at our first meeting with CCI Greenheart, I learned about the Greenheart Club. Knowing about the Greenheart Club made me more excited about the program.

My volunteering in the United States started when one of my co-workers, Douglas Leferve, shared that he was serving in the Yellowstone Amateur Emergency Services (YARES). I asked him if I could join and help with their operations, and he allowed me to. I joined the group, and at the first meeting I met most of them and felt their warm welcome. They call me “Black Ops,” which is funny because I want to be one. I really had a great time being with and helping them. I spent most of my time volunteering with YARES because they were always involved in activities here in Billings. YARES also works with the National Weather Service. One of the memorable events that I attended was the Special Olympics. It was very heartwarming to see people being active and playing sports, regardless of their disability. On one of the days that I volunteered, there was a horseback riding tournament at a ranch. While at the ranch, I was attached to one of the horses, Shifty. Whenever I left Shifty he would make weird noises; it was like he was saying “don’t leave me here”, “where are you going?”  I know this sounds weird, but that’s what I thought he was trying to communicate.

Another memorable event that I attended was the Montana Women’s Run. I separated the chips attached to almost 10,000 women, by color. That was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed it. I met a lot of new friends at that event. Another unforgettable experience I had was when I volunteered at the Peaks to Prairie Adventure Race. These are just a few of the most memorable volunteer experiences that I had, but overall, each experience I had was unforgettable.

As I go back to my home country, I am hoping to organize a volunteer project to educate kids, and organize an environmental project on the small island of Cebu. Since I took a short course about Introduction of Climate Change and Science of Climate, and most of the volunteer activities I participated in were related to weather, I want to share my knowledge with the community.  Most importantly, I want to share my knowledge of climate change, global warming causes and effects, preservation, and conservation with children. I also want to teach children how to save the environment by using the 3R’s (reuse, reduce and recycle). In addition to these projects, I am taking up a course that specializes in the field of Culinary Arts, so I would like to develop a feeding program. The reason I have chosen the island of Cebu is because I would like to help the people on that island that were affected by typhoon Haiyan. I would also like to provide school supplies for the children after lecturing them. At the end of the program, I hope to organize an environmental activity, such as tree planting, proper segregation of waste, or something else. I am really looking forward to this volunteer project of mine.

I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone who has become a part of my puzzle. I especially want to thank my YARES family for allowing me to help with their operations, and specifically Douglas for bringing me to most of my volunteer events. I would also like to thank my coworkers, who have become my friends. I would especially like to thank my Convention Center Family: Shane, Terri, Tiffany, Bob, Captain Brian, Flarin, Lea, Karrolyn, Allen, Cindy, Vickie, Jana, Marketa and all of my fellow Work & Travel participants. Thank you to my host establishment, The Big Horn Resort, for accepting me, especially Ms. Ginny, Ms. Brenda, and Ms. Tracy, the housekeeping ladies, the reef group, and the maintenance men.  Thank you to all of my Thai girlfriends and Thai friends in my apartment, to Andy, my favorite girl, and to my agency, POEC, for helping throughout this program. Thank you to my school, Lyceum of the Philippines University-Cavite, for allowing me to participate in this program, and to CCI Greenheart for making this experience possible. Finally, I would like to thank my mother and my family, who have provided me with a lot. My mom has been extremely supportive; she’s the best, and I am really thankful for what she has done for me. I am truly grateful and thankful for everything and everyone. Each of these people has brought something new into my life, and they are all pieces to my puzzle.  Hopefully, the change I am pursuing will happen, and even though I have had experience a lot, there are still pieces of my puzzle that are missing. I love being able to put together the pieces of my puzzle.