November 2021, was a memorable month for most of the AIESECers in University Of Ruhuna and notably for the members of Incoming Global Volunteer. November was the month of realization. Wow, it was something that we all were looking forward to. Realizations gave us the opportunity to step out of the virtual world and give a stop to our monotonous lifestyles.
All these were possible only because of the brave individuals Tessa, Elissa, Jillian, and Sam who came out of their comfort zones to impact the world for the betterment. In this blog, we will be talking about the experience of Jillian Janice Driver, a passionate animal lover who came all the way from Hamburg in Germany. Jillian’s passion for animals made her specially choose the project ‘Pet Whisperer’ which is based on the Sustainable Development Goal 15, the main aim of this project is to ensure animal welfare. Jillian took all her effort to achieve this aim and was very successful in every task she did, even though Jillian once told us that she is more of a cat person, we never saw her favoring cats among the others, she loved, treated, and cared for all the animals equally showing how great her heart is. We thought that it would be great if we can provide you guys the chance to read Jillian’s own words on her experience. So here we go… these are the answers that Jillian had for a few questions that we asked her.
- Who are you and what makes you special?
My name is Jillian, I am 20 years old from Germany. What makes me special most probably is that I am a very empathetic and sensible person who can be both good and bad. On the one hand, I, therefore, am very attentive and notice differences in people’s behaviors or whenever there is something bothering someone. On the other hand, that means that I am – as a person – sensitive as well and a lot can get to me really quick. I sometimes even overthink because of that characteristic. But all in all, I see these characteristics as strengths.
- How did you get to know about this opportunity and why did you choose Sri Lanka?
A friend of mine went to Tanzania through AIESEC. Even though I’ve heard of your organization before, his positive feedback was the final reason for me to join an AIESEC project. To be honest, I didn’t really choose Sri Lanka, it was just one of the first project suggestions I got, and since it sounded good and I really felt the urge to travel and to help I just applied, and then it suddenly worked out. Sri Lanka was never really on my travel bucket list but now it definitely is and I am so happy that I got the opportunity to get to know this beautiful country.
- What inspired you to stand as a volunteer? Do you have prior experience in volunteering?
I knew that I wanted to travel and see another country but I also knew that just traveling wouldn’t be enough for me. Since I also really wanted to help other people, volunteering seemed like a great solution, even though I originally wanted to go abroad for a longer period of time and not “only” for 7 weeks. It is just really nice to exchange cultures and to help other people or the environment and to not only focus on yourself the whole time.
- What were the most interesting JDs that you had to do in your project so far?
I really liked the beach cleanup, street dog feeding, and the SOS animal shelter visits. While doing the first two tasks you were able to see and realize in the moment of fulfilling the task that you are helping. You saw the progress with your own eyes which feels very nice. The visits to the SOS animal shelter are always nice because there are different things to do every day and after a few visits you already know some of the staff and the animals and are greeted with open arms and happy dogs that will spontaneously jump at you.
- What do you see as specific barriers and challenges when traveling to Sri Lanka as a volunteer?
It is not always easy to be a woman who looks different in Sri Lanka. Everyone needs to decide for themselves if they want to fully adapt to Sri Lankan culture or if they stay “true” to themselves regarding things. eg: clothes. I tried to adapt to the culture at first by wearing long jeans and T-shirts but after two weeks I felt the need to dress like myself again, also because it is really hot here and when you are not used to the climate it’s just really hard to keep wearing long jeans. Now I am wearing what I want to wear but try to always respect the culture at the same time. My change of clothes also happened because I moved to a more touristic area where I wasn’t the only foreigner anymore. Still, you always need to be careful about yourself – as you have to be in most countries – and just stand up for yourself.
AIESEC always organizes all the activities and without them, I wouldn’t have been able to do most of it. Another barrier is that most locals try to take more money from you than the actual prize is. So always try to negotiate or listen to the prize other locals are told. eg: on the bus.
- How has AIESEC in University of Ruhuna helped you to perform as a volunteer in your project?
AIESEC organizes nearly everything for you, without them I wouldn’t have been able to do most of the tasks I did.
- What are the places or areas that you traveled in Sri Lanka? What is your favorite place so far?
I’ve traveled the whole south coast from Galle to Matara. I’ve also been to Hikkaduwa and Colombo. Afterward, we went to the Yala National Park in Kataragama, where we saw lots of wildlife. On the next weekend, we first went to Matale from where we had the opportunity to go to Sigiriya in a short time and climbed the Lion’s Rock. We then stayed in Kandy and visited the temple of the sacred tooth and lots of other places. On the way back to Galle we stopped at Horton’s Plains and went for a really impressive hike. I think my favorite trip was the last one around the region of Kandy since the hills and the breathtaking nature. But I also was really happy when we went back home because I missed the ocean and the south coast so much.
- Which Sinhala words did you find interesting?
All the words are interesting but what I like most are the words you use to address people around you like “nangi” – little sister, “malli” – little brother, “akka” – big sister, “ayya” – big brother and also words like uncle and aunty.
- What are your favorite Sri Lankan foods?
Probably Rotty, Naan, and Kottu. But all food are good…and spicy.
- What was the most surprising thing that you saw in Sri Lanka?
Men wearing the sarong, the crazy traffic, cows on the road, and the little heads shake when saying yes.
- What is your advice to a colleague who is planning to travel to Sri Lanka and would you like to travel Sri Lanka again?
I would definitely like to travel here again! And my advice would be “don’t bring a lot of long clothes, one pair of jeans and one hoodie is enough!”
“Since I also really wanted to help other people, volunteering seemed like a great solution” This is the gut feeling that motivated Jillian to step out of her comfort zone. You too must be having thoughts that can lead you to achieve great heights, listen to what your heart says and accept challenges, those will make you a well-molded individual.
Written by : Nethma Ranaweera