Volunteer Spotlight: Melissa Ordoñez

University of the District of Columbia student, Melissa Ordoñez, interviewed below, has been assisting with nutrition-related curriculum development, and international learning activities with the families and youth involved in our Citizen Diplomacy Initiative (CDI).  

Where were you born and raised?

I was born and raised in Costa Rica.  My family lives in Heredia, a province of Costa Rica, which is about a thirty minute drive from the capital, San José.

What school do you attend, and what is your year and major there?

I am a sophomore at  the University of the District of Columbia, majoring in Nutrition & Dietetics.

Melissa OrdonezWhat do you like to do in your free time?

I love reading because I like to learn about other people’s perspectives, especially regarding nutrition and personal growth.  I also love the outdoors, and going on walks with friends.

Is there a life experience you have had that has particularly shaped you as a person thus far?  If so, what is it, and how has it shaped you?  

Every single event in my life made me who I am today, but if I need to choose experience, I would say having a mom who is a social worker.  My mom works at a temporary shelter in the mountains of Costa Rica for kids who are at social, economic and emotional risk.  I grew up going with her to her office every week.  For her, it was her office, for me, it was my favorite playground: a big property with ten houses, a school, a farm, and ninety kids was definitely the place where I wanted to be after school.  Once I was old enough, around 14, I started volunteering at the shelter.  That place and all the years I spent there after school and as a volunteer made me realize that I want to dedicate my life to work with and for those in need.

What are your career plans?

After finishing college, I would like to start a private counseling practice.  I have a bachelor’s degree in guidance counseling, and also certification as a health coach.  I want to guide both men and women to find a happier and healthy lifestyle by loving, enjoying and honoring their bodies and spirits.

I also would like to work remotely, with my clients via the internet, so I can live and volunteer in different countries.  I enjoy traveling the world and learning new things from other cultures.  We all can learn from our neighbors on other continents.   Hopefully Africa is my next destination.

Why did you choose to volunteer with Learning Life?

Learning Life caught me when I heard it was about helping lower-income families connect with the world.  Having the opportunity to live in another country opens your eyes in so many different ways, yet not everyone has the opportunity to travel or live in another country, so if that experience can be brought to you, via the internet, that is priceless!  I also love to work with lower-income families because I understand their struggle.

What is the most beautiful place you have seen on Earth, and why is it so beautiful?

Hopefully this is not surprising, but my favorite place is that children’s shelter where I spent most of my childhood. The vibe that you feel in that place is hard to describe, but it feels like love, happiness, compassion and forgiveness, to name just a few words.  The air there is so fresh and the green colors of the mountains are so vibrant.  Also the view from there to the valley is so peaceful and inspiring.  Some people even say that if you focus very well, you can see the ocean at the far end of the mountains.