Here at Orphanage Support Services Organization, volunteers are important to us. Safety is our number one priority, so we have our code of conduct and volunteer directors in place to achieve this. But, what do volunteer directors do?
Our volunteer directors are people who volunteer to come to Ecuador or Thailand for an extended period of time. They pick up volunteers from the airport, orient them to their new city, and help them fit right into the busy schedule of OSSO volunteers.
Ultimately, volunteer directors oversee the volunteers’ well-being and schedules. They help our volunteers serve effectively. Now, this is a big responsibility, so we don’t just pick anybody. We carefully select directors who we know will be great with volunteers.
Get to know those we’ve chosen for 2017 below!
Meet Keenan and Sasha Foster. The couple said, “There really isn’t anything we’d rather be doing in the world than wrapping our lives around serving people in Ecuador with OSSO. It includes all our favorite things: meeting lots of new people, playing with and teaching children, music, speaking Spanish, traveling to new places, and exploring the outdoors.”
Keenan is working toward a degree in international relations. Sasha received her bachelor’s degree in music education and is also endorsed in Spanish education. She grew up in Snohomish, Washington, riding horses in 4-H and playing trombone in various ensembles. Keenan thrived playing bass in the Salt Lake City ska-punk scene. The two said, “It’s no wonder with our passion for music that we met playing in a jazz combo at BYU-I.”
When Keenan heard about OSSO and that it supported an orphanage for special needs, he was very enthusiastic to be a part of the organization. Having worked with teens and young adults with special needs and having an uncle with Down syndrome, made choosing to serve with OSSO all the more emotional and personal for him.
“We look forward to the time we have to become close to those we work with while also expanding our parenting skills because one day we will want some rugrats of our own,” said Sasha, whose career is full of such littles.
“We now claim no place as our home as we have lived in three different states during the short time we’ve been married. And, if we have learned anything in the last couple of years, it is that the best things in life are rarely planned. Our opportunity to be a part of OSSO is one of those. As soon as we were introduced to this organization, we knew it was something special that we wanted to be part of. Nothing could be more valuable to us than working with youth and we’re always looking forward to meeting new people — whether small or tall — and creating memories with them.
“Having been here [in Ecuador] for almost two weeks now, we have seen the needs and wants of the children in the orphanages we work with. We hope all who read this or hear of OSSO, volunteer to help these kids out. Feed our kids. Play with our kids. Whether it’s time, money or donations, give give give! They are lives that you are saving. Come down and see their faces. Spend time with them. See the difference you make.
“If you don’t, then who will?”
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Kirstin Winters, our Ecuador volunteer director for the 18 months before the Fosters came aboard, is now one of OSSO’s new Thailand directors!
“I grew up in Mesquite, Nevada where the sun always shines. I earned my Bachelor of Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Utah in 2014. I have traveled to Guatemala, Cambodia, and Thailand with various volunteer groups. I love adventure and prefer to travel with a purpose, although I will travel to a beach anytime!
“Having volunteered with multiple organizations, I knew OSSO was special. I was instantly drawn to the special needs orphanage in Cuenca and knew that was where my heart belonged. OSSO has given me the opportunity to do what I am passionate about: care for and love disadvantaged youth.
“OSSO has given me not only the experience to open my heart to these children but also the opportunity to experience Ecuador. I have enjoyed the many cities, landmarks, and unheard of characteristics of Ecuador that I am in love with. I encourage all to share this experience with me, to fall in love with Ecuador and the beautiful children OSSO cares for!"
Christy Manson is OSSO’s other Thailand director for 2017.
“I will be graduating with a bachelor's degree in communications Fall 2017 from Brigham Young University-Idaho. My emphasis is advocacy and I plan to advocate for women's and children's rights in different countries. I am from Arizona and enjoy running, practicing yoga and hiking.
“In yoga, we end sessions by saying ‘Namaste,’ which simply means that the light in me recognizes and honors the light in you. I have found that little children are exceptionally attuned to this because of how quick they are to unconditionally show love and how slow they are to judge.
“Come experience Thailand through OSSO and you will recognize the special light within the orphanages, within the country, as well as within yourself. Live light. Travel light. Share the light. Be the light.”
We hoped you enjoyed getting to know our volunteer directors for 2017! We are grateful for them and the hard work they put into making sure OSSO volunteers have a wonderful and meaningful experience.