By Mia Cooper, 2016 Azuero, Panama AMIGOS alumna and 2019 Discover AMIGOS Assistant Project Director
One thing I can promise you is that your experience with AMIGOS doesn’t end when your summer or program does, and AMIGOS will continue to influence your life years after you’re a volunteer.
I actually spent my 16th birthday at a training with the Austin Chapter, learning about overcoming failure and growing through challenges. At the time I never could have imagined the places my journey with AMIGOS would take me, or how important everything I learned along the way would become.
On June 27th, 2016, just 12 hours before I was supposed to fly out to my project in Azuero, Panama, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
I almost didn’t go at all, but with her encouragement, I continued with the program.
Like many others, my summer with AMIGOS was the experience of a lifetime. I formed an unforgettable bond with my host family, completed a community project, and held daily extracurricular activities. All of those things have impacted my life in countless ways. What was even more impactful than my summer, however, was the change that happened when I came home.
I immediately got involved with the Austin Chapter, as a trainer and a youth representative on our board. This became one of the best ways to cope with my mom’s terminal prognosis, and I threw myself into working with AMIGOS. It was one of the things that my mom and I bonded over.
She always told me my eyes lit up when I talked about AMIGOS in a way she’d never seen before.
Over the last three years working with the Austin Chapter, throughout all the difficult times I always knew I had an incredibly deep community of people behind me ready to support me. I have found best friends, mentors, and a family within my chapter network. But the growth I’ve witnessed within myself doesn’t only show up when I’m wearing my AMIGOS “hat”. I think I’ve become a better friend, daughter, sister, student, coworker, and leader.
I simply wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for AMIGOS.
One of the last things I talked about with my mom before she passed away was applying to be on project staff this summer. She told me, “Don’t wait. You’ve found what you want to do… So go do it.” AMIGOS has this magical way of coming into your life exactly when you need it most, and giving you what you didn’t even know you needed.
I can’t wait to see what AMIGOS brings to my life next time.