A third trip overseas to help those in need added fuel to a local teen’s passion for volunteerism.
Gabby Gibbs spent the first three weeks of July in Livingstone, Zambia, where she worked in a kindergarten classroom at a pre-primary school. It was eye-opening for the recent Holy Trinity Academy grad, who said she didn’t expect to see so many children struggle with learning.
“Probably about 60 per cent of the students have learning disabilities and that hit me hard,” said Gibbs. “Both my parents are teachers and my dad has spent the last 12 years working with students with learning disabilities, so that meant a lot to me.
“I decided if I did one thing while I was on this trip, it would be to help some of those students and make a difference in the classroom.”
Though she was only in the country for 21 days, Gibbs said she feels she made a positive impact.
It’s not about the length of the stay but the amount of work volunteers put into their assignments that matters, she said.
“People want to know whether you can really make a difference when you’re only going somewhere for 21 days,” said Gibbs. “The thing is, you can. Just a few days or a few weeks can make a huge difference for children who normally wouldn’t get the help they need.”
The school she was in would have 60 students and one teacher if not for the volunteer groups, she said.
When she left, she felt as though the strides she’d made in the classroom would be picked up by the next group of volunteers, she said.
Gibbs traveled to Zambia through a non-government organization called International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ). In Zambia, she was connected with Dream Livingstone, a non-profit group dedicated to the care of orphans and vulnerable people, like children and elderly.
She didn’t intend to take another trip this summer, right before starting post-secondary at Mount Royal University (MRU).
“After my previous two trips I thought, ‘Okay, that’s it, that’s enough for a while,’ but then the next thing I knew I was booking a plane ticket for Zambia,” said Gibbs. “It’s like an addiction and I can’t help myself. I went to India last year and Ecuador the year before and I heard Africa calling me.”
Part of the reason for her “addiction” is helping those in need and being embedded in different cultures. In Zambia, she boarded with a local family, where she learned how people in Livingstone live and ate native food.
“It’s so rewarding,” said Gibbs. “I can’t even explain how good it feels to know you’re making a difference and helping these people, helping kids in school.”
She wouldn’t be able to make it happen without the support of those at home, she said.
It can cost an average of $3,000 for a service trip, depending on how long it is and whether the individual intends to take in any tourist attractions while visiting. Local businesses, family and friends all stepped up to help her take the mission trip to Zambia, as well as her previous two adventures.
“The community has been such a huge support,” said Gibbs.
She said the experience this summer has fueled her desire to continue traveling and volunteering around the world. Her three summer trips have also inspired her career – Gibbs will be studying international policy at MRU and hopes to get into international relations.
But nothing will ever change her passion for doing whatever she can to help others.
“I know for sure, no matter what else I do, I’ll always volunteer,” said Gibbs. “That is without a doubt. It can be like the work I do with Good Shepherd School or going on another trip.
“Whether it’s here at home or abroad, I know I will always be a volunteer. It’s in me.”