One Child, One Moment: A Student’s Life-Changing Experience in Philadelphia

Sarah Andrews is a student enrolled in the Social Service Worker program at Niagara College. She had participated in an international field study experience In Philadelphia.  Read some of the excerpts from her reflection to see how her experience abroad has helped her become “World Ready”! 

Sarah Andrews

When I signed up for this international field trip, I knew that I would see things that I had not yet learned in a classroom and experience situations that would challenge me. I never once considered how deeply this experience would change my entire outlook on life.


The DePaul Catholic School will forever be the location that changed my view on the world. I was there at an after school program and this little boy who was 3 was collecting all my attention and I remember thinking, maybe Philadelphia is not all that bad. Maybe there still is hope for this community through the innocence of a child. Little did I know that with one question, my entire thought process and very core would be shaken. He looked at me and asked, “Sarah, do you know where you can buy guns?” and I looked back at him and I no longer saw that innocence and I awaited his answer. When I didn’t reply, he answered his own question with, “You know you can just go to Walmart, get a gun and walk out.” It took everything in me not cry and pull him into my arms and bring him back home with me so he could get that innocence he so rightly deserved. That moment, has forever changed me.

He taught me, sadly, that not every child gets to experience a childhood. Not every child grows up only believing in fairytales and unicorns. He taught me that by leaving my sheltered life in Canada, that my eyes could be opened by a child. This moment taught me to never take things for granted and that children are so susceptible to their surroundings. This will greatly influence how I raise my children and when I counsel parents and children themselves. No matter what I learn in all my years reading a textbook it will never compare to what he taught me in 30 seconds. I learned that children at the age of 3 know the bad things in life and this can greatly contribute to how they grow up and who they become. He may never have a chance. He may grow up and walk into Walmart and buy a gun because that is what he knows. That is what he saw growing up and to him that is normal.
He made me more “world-ready” because of all the lessons he taught me. Never will I ever assume that every child holds innocence in their eyes. It made me more aware of the hardships that children see and internalize. When I volunteer or work abroad and I come across a similar experience, I will remember the 3 year old boy who taught me understanding and really opened my eyes and be a better volunteer and social worker because of him. I am a better person because of him.

Volunesia is that moment you forget you are volunteering to help change lives because it is changing yours is the only way I can sum up my experience in a sentence. This trip changed my life.