Blog #1 — July 2020 — Intro

My name is Elena Villamagna, I live in the Tampa/ St. Petersburg area of Florida. I try to live my life as naturally and with as much kindness towards other living things as possible.

My main plan for this gap year is to further my interest in the natural way of life and increase my fluency in Spanish. My plans under the natural way of life include diving into my career interest of being a midwife (the doctor/RN that assists women in natural births) and work on organic farms to learn to farm sustainably and grow my own food. My plans under increasing my Spanish speaking abilities include preparation for the first half of the year using different services available to me and then later traveling to a Spanish speaking country to do volunteer work.

I plan to work to get my Doula certification, through DONA International, which will be the first step in becoming more involved in the natural birth/medicinal world. A Doula is a professional who assists in the emotional, mental, and comfort support a woman and her partner need during the birthing process, making sure that the mother’s wishes are being followed and her needs are being met. With that certification, I want to volunteer for underprivileged women and teen moms in my area to get experience with volunteering as a Doula. Later in the year, after I have become confident in the role of a Doula, I will travel with Love Volunteers internationally to either a location in Latin America or Africa to offer my Doula services to the birthing unit. As of right now the best fit for me, taking into consideration my current level of Spanish, is Mexico, working with an organization whose mission it is to re-legitimize midwifery, birthing traditions, and indigenous birthing practices. One thing that I was hoping to include in my gap year was spending more time with indigenous peoples and learning from their wisdom and lifestyle, however, due to the COVID pandemic, it would be extremely unethical to put any tribes at risk by visiting them, which is why I am excited about this organization in Mexico because I can still incorporate preserving indigenous knowledge into my gap year. I also want to spend two months on St. Croix in the Virgin Islands doing more Doula volunteer work, other women empowerment volunteering, and shadowing an OBGYN. I think it will be very beneficial for me to be able to experience births in many different cultures.

I am planning on WWOOFing, organic farming, across the United States the first half of the year, as we are restricted to domestic travel due to the pandemic. I want to WWOOF in California, Hawaii, and possibly one other location I still need to decide on. I am only doing three or a maximum of four locations because I want to dive into each farm I am farming at and become part of the community around the farm.

With my Spanish I am starting to work on it by using Duolingo, listening to the radio in Spanish while I drive, listening to News in Slow Spanish, and watching Spanish TV shows. I want to be able to WWOOF in a Spanish speaking country for at least one month so that I can ease myself into it before volunteering medically where I will need to be onto of my game with the language.

Overall my expectations for my gap year are that I will see a great improvement in my Spanish and that I will gain a lot of experience in both organic farming and birthing. And while all of those plans are still in the works, one thing that I know will happen no matter what is that I will be able to experience numerous different cultures, meet really interesting people, and gain my independence.

Published by Warren Oliver

CRE Associate Director for Global Programming

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