API Gives Back – Barcelona

Student: Andrew S.
API Program: Barcelona, Spain: International Studies Semester Program

Describe your API Gives Back program:

Every Tuesday from February 23 to the end of the API program, I volunteered at the Fundacion Catalana de Paralisis Cerebral to play with and help train people with cerebral palsy for their upcoming Special Olympics.  I played Boccia with the athletes from 6:00p.m. to 8:30p.m.  My job description was to provide the players with adequate competition, improve my Spanish fluency and make new friends.  I believe I can confidently say I was able to do all three.

Did this project benefit your host community?

Yes, I believe the project is beneficial to my host community.  First, I believe any kind of volunteer work helps the community.  Volunteers go out of their way to do something good for the community without expecting a tangible thing like money in return.  Essentially, volunteers volunteer because they genuinely want to help.  Sometimes the rewards they reap (i.e., new friends and experiences) are greater than tangible awards (i.e., money).

This particular project was beneficial because it was one example of building bridges between the Spanish and American cultures.  Yes, the ultimate goal was to help train the Special Olympic athletes for their tournament.  Yes, the cultural gap could have been interpreted as another barrier to this goal due to communication difficulties, but I thought otherwise.  The cultural gap made me want to communicate with and help train the athletes that much more.  I think the Spaniards felt the same way.  The adversity was added motivation.  Likewise, I felt playing against the Spaniards helped motivate them to play better.

Plus, I think this experience helps paint American studying abroad students in a positive light.  Too often Americans abroad are labeled as obnoxious partiers without the desire to give back.  It felt good to represent the lesser well-known faction: American volunteers.

Would you consider the project to be a positive or negative experience?

I thought the project was a positive experience for the reasons listed above (i.e., creating new friendships, improving Spanish fluency and uniting for a common goal).

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