By Nancy Edwards
Thousands of recent college graduates may be looking for local internships or entry-level jobs to gain experience in their field. Deborah Pokorney, 46, is using her occupational therapy degree from IUPUI this month to help residents in Costa Rica.
Through a New Zealand-based organization called International Volunteer HeadQuarters, Pokorney will be spending two weeks working with residents to enhance their occupation in life through work, play, leisure, health care and home activities. For example, she will assist with dressing techniques if someone has a hip replacement or teach patients how to relearn basic skills if they have a spinal cord injury.
Pokorney also will be living with a Costa Rican family, immersing herself completely in their language and culture. Volunteers are given half of each day to explore their surroundings.
“I am very excited to be able to use my recently acquired degree in occupational therapy to give back,” she said. “This is a life-changing event. I’m making a difference I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
IVHQ offers affordable, international volunteer opportunities starting at $250 to individuals or groups, including universities, churches and corporations around the world. Volunteers may choose to teach, provide medical assistance, raise HIV/AIDS awareness, empower women, assist with an orphanage or work in conservation or agriculture. Countries around the world needing assistance beside Costa Rica include Kenya, Nepal, Vietnam, China, Brazil, Mexico and more.
Though Pokorney will speak Spanish when she travels abroad, many positions do not require understanding a second language; there are also language courses offered to enhance the volunteer experience.
Pokorney was a former stay-at-home mom for 10 years to three children, Madeline, 17, and a recent graduate and valedictorian of Fishers High School, Chloe, 14 and a sophomore at Fishers High School, and Bennett Snipes, 12 and a seventh-grader at Riverside Junior High School. She acknowledged that she will be stepping outside of her comfort zone. Many adults may feel as though their time to travel abroad has passed due to their age, raising children, or work commitments.
“I really would like the opportunity to let others know that volunteerism isn’t just for students and young adults” she said. “Professionals and others with life experience can offer valuable expertise and have a wonderful learning experience for themselves.”
Pokorney’s son, Bennett, said that, although he will miss his mom for a few weeks, he is happy for her and thinks this will “be a fun way to help people around the world.”
“I think it’s really cool that she’ll be one of the first people in Fishers going off to practice her occupation,” he said.
For more information on IVHQ, visit www.volunteeringhq.org.