Mr. Zack has been volunteering with Amigos de Jesús for the past two years. His various passions including space, Spanish, driving, and religion, as well as his general zeal and excitement for life, have impacted the ‘hogar’ in a special way. Further, Mr. Zack's desire to do whatever is necessary to make our kids happy, coupled with his love of telling jokes and speaking Spanish, have made him a friend and support for all of the children, adults, and fellow volunteers at our home. Whether it’s “his” girls in ‘hogar’ 1 wanting to play or hang out with him, some of the ‘jóvenes’ he spends time tutoring searching him out at all hours for help with their math classes, one of his new ‘colegio’ math students coming up to him asking questions about homework, or a coordinator relaying and exchanging information with him, someone is always yelling Mr. Zack’s name the second he steps outside.
Read more about Mr. Zack in his interview below:
- Age: 24
- Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA
- University: The University of Arizona
- Degree: BS Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics Minor
5. What is your role at Amigos? (include roles that you currently have and previously had)
I’m in my second year as an Amigos volunteer and my main job title this year is Volunteer Coordinator. I live and work with the other Amigos volunteers in community and serve as a point of contact between our volunteer community and the rest of Amigos.
I feel like one of the things I’ve become most known for around the hogar (home) is being the math tutor. Ever since my first year I’ve been helping out with homework and studying 1-on-1 with the jóvenes (our boys from middle school up to college).
I also have a couple jobs at the school. A few months ago I became the 7th and 9th grade math teacher for our new middle school at Amigos. Additionally, for the last year and a half I’ve been giving an astronomy class roughly once a week to a group of older students as part of our after-school-activities program.
In the hogar, a new role I’ve picked up in my second year is helping out with driving. With only a few drivers at Amigos for all our kids and staff, getting my Honduran driver license has been very useful for Amigos and has kept me very busy. I’ve also earned the official position on Saturdays of being the Amigos “trash man” where I take one of the trucks with a group of kids around Amigos emptying the trash bins.
6. What were you doing before you came to Amigos?
Before coming to Amigos I was a student at The University of Arizona studying mechanical engineering. I graduated in May 2016 and came down to Amigos a couple weeks after.
7. How did you first hear about Amigos de Jesús?
About a year before I came to Amigos, I started looking up organizations where I could volunteer abroad. It was hard to find a place to volunteer because almost all international volunteer positions require a 2-year commitment. At the time I could barely imagine being gone for a full year, so I was automatically ruling out all 2-year programs.
While I was searching my mom suggested I looked up places where I could incorporate my Catholic faith into my volunteer experience. That’s when I began researching different volunteer opportunities on the Catholic Volunteer Network. I was specifically looking for 1-year programs and the first option for Central America was Amigos de Jesús. I started researching Amigos, falling in love with their mission and the idea of becoming part of the Amigos family. It’s funny now how one of the reasons I found Amigos de Jesús was because it didn’t require a 2-year time commitment, but after coming here and falling in love, here I am writing a blog in my 2nd year as a volunteer.
8. What made you decide to stay for a second year?
I remember in my first year, just a couple months in as a volunteer, there was the annual Amigos music festival, 'Festival de la Canción,' where the kids get to dress up and perform and sing on a stage in front of everybody. I had an incredible time and after the event ended all I could think of was how this could not have been the first and only time I was going to take part in this event. Something inside me was already saying that maybe I was meant to stay at Amigos longer than a year. The blessing was that this feeling was very natural and I was perfectly at peace with it. My first year continued on with this idea always present in my mind. When the deadline came to extend your term of service I sent in my request to stay a 2nd year. Now that I’m towards the end of my 2nd year (I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone) all I can say is that staying a 2nd year has been the greatest decision of my life.
9. What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the Volunteer Coordinator role has been being a voice for our volunteer community and being a communicator between the volunteer community and all the other areas of Amigos. Although at times it can be difficult, I like being the person who is responsible for the Amigos volunteers and someone Amigos can depend on. I love how my job requires having meetings with the head people of the different areas of Amigos because through those meetings I’ve been able to see how blessed Amigos is for having such an incredible leadership team down here in Honduras.
10. How have the ‘jóvenes’ (older boys) shaped your time at Amigos?
The 'jóvenes' have been a big part of my volunteer experience. I’ve loved being able to spend time with a group of guys who are around my age, especially so when I was the only male volunteer. What I have taken very seriously when I spend time with them is setting a good example.
I think spending almost 2 years with the 'jóvenes' has deepened my understanding of Amigos and these childrens' lives. You can spend as much time as you want with the younger kids at Amigos but you’re never going to get into a conversation about life with the depth that you can with the 'jóvenes.' Being able to get to know them on a different level than I can with the younger kids and seeing the strength of their bonds with each other have been a couple powerful ways they´ve influenced me as a volunteer.
11. Can you talk about the importance of being a healthy male figure in a girls dorm and how your relationship with the girls in 'hogar' 1 has grown over time?
When a volunteer begins their term of service at Amigos, they are assigned to be the "volunteer" of an 'hogar.' The volunteer eats meals with this 'hogar' and they often form a close relationship with its kids and caretakers. When I came, I was assigned to a girl’s 'hogar' ('Hogar' 1) and have been with them my entire time as a volunteer.
In the girls’ 'hogares' only 'madrinas,' in other words women, can serve as their caretakers. Although I don’t have the responsibilities of their caretakers, being part of a girl’s 'hogar' and being a consistent and healthy male presence in their daily lives over the past 2 years to me has been a reason in and of itself for making all my time down here worth it.
The girls of 'hogar' 1 hold an exceptionally special place in my heart. My time down here as a volunteer wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for them. From the beginning, my relationship with 'hogar' 1 started off really well. My relationships with the girls and their 'madrinas' have been developing during my 2 years and I can’t express the deepness of my love for them all. I never could have imagined before coming to Amigos how much I would come to love these girls. It keeps getting better. They have been the biggest blessing for me at Amigos and although it will be incredibly painful saying goodbye to them when my time as a volunteer ends, the beautiful part is that I will be able to come back to visit them and continue watching them grow up.
With several of the girls in his 'hogar' that Mr. Zack is close with.