Finding a place 8-year-old Morgan could volunteer wasn’t easy for mom Danica Hubbard. But she convinced Hesed House in Aurora that the Naperville girl was mature enough to volunteer there.
Since then Morgan and her sister, Madison, have volunteered lots of places. But this year, the family is committing to an entire week in Costa Rica for spring break at the end of March.
The girls, along with their parents Brian and Danica, will spend a week volunteering in construction and renovation as part of International Volunteer HQ, one of the few organizations that allow youth younger than 18 to participate.
This trip won’t be like anything else they have done before.
“We were looking for something completely different,” Danica said. “This is a pretty big jump for us, but we’re very adventurous and open to new cultures.”
For starters, they will spend a week living with a family whose members most likely won’t speak English. Brian, who is a physician, speaks some Spanish and tries to brush up his skills because he works in an area with a high concentration of Spanish speakers.
But they also realize they will be exposed to poverty in a way they have not experienced before.
“We have an idea of what it’s going to be like,” Morgan said. “I’m sure it will change our views, and we’ll see how lucky we are.”
What they don’t know is exactly how their time will be spent. They have signed up for construction and renovation, and they won’t know until they arrive what they will be doing. They could be working at a school or orphanage and doing an array of projects, including painting a mural or clearing land.
“Anything to beautify their area,” Danica said.
The family has done plenty of volunteering, but this trip will immerse them in a project.
“Although for years we volunteered as a family for a short period of time, this will be very different for us,” Danica said, about spending an entire week volunteering rather than just a few hours on a weekend.
The idea took shape when the family hosted a German foreign-exchange student and then a trip to Europe last summer when they toured six countries in three weeks.
While the entire family can’t wait to immerse themselves in the culture, of the three female members, each has a specific goal in mind.
Madison, a student at Washington Junior High School, hopes they will get to help build a house.
“It’s where a person is going to go, to use,” she said,
For Morgan, a member of the Naperville North High School Key Club, an instant camera will be her tool for connecting with others. She heard that people in Costa Rica don’t usually have cameras, so she plans to take photos of the people she meets.
“I’m going to hand them out with my sister and see their reactions,” she said.
Mom Danica sees the big picture, though.
“We’re seeing a different area of the world and getting outside our comfort zone,” she said. “We live in an area where there are a lot of resources available to use. We get used to having everything at our fingertips. ”
Still, she has butterflies about living with a family who doesn’t speak the same language. Yet she knows that the experience will ultimately outweigh any fears they have.
“It’s important as a family we step outside that and embrace altruism,” Danica said.