AFTER indulging in some well-earned relaxation on a holiday, Larissa Ashton wanted to step out of her comfort zone.
The speech pathologist who works in Bassendean and lives in Mt Lawley, signed up to volunteer for the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program and was whisked off to the Philippines to help children with speech difficulties for nine months.
“After coming back from a holiday overseas, I felt I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone,’ Ms Ashton said.
“Volunteering appealed to me because I could live in a country with a completely different culture and use my skills to make a difference for others.”
Based at a school in Daraga, a regional area in the Bicol region, Ms Ashton worked in the special education department, training and working with teachers, parents and children with disabilities.
“My experience was incredible, from the little things, like catching a jeepney, the brightly coloured commuter vehicle, to work with the locals every day, to the big ones, like watching the volcano I lived at the base of erupt,” she said.
“I loved experiencing the local traditions including fiestas, parades, local foods and favourite customs.
“I also observed some of the hardships, including extreme poverty and experiencing a typhoon and its aftermath.”
Ms Ashton said seeing the changes in the children’s development was rewarding.
“The children were so cheerful and happy and all tried so hard despite their difficulties,” she said.
“One girl had speech difficulties and was very behind at school; I managed to identify that she had a hearing impairment.
“When she was placed in a hearing impaired class she began to learn to read and write and communicate with others through signing.
“It was exciting to see things improving for her.”