Employee Spotlight on Véronique Smith
“I remember thinking before I left that this will definitely change my life – but it completely changed my life, 100 percent,” says Véronique, who learned about PEPY through a Notre Dame alumni mailing. “I thought I was always aware of the world around me, but this especially made me realize how much of an impact I can have on changing the world if I really apply myself to do that. I am going to be ‘Super Volunteer’ from this point on.”
This was by no means a deluxe vacation. Véronique did not stay at fancy hotels, and flushable toilets were a rare luxury. As a result, she was able to experience the country from the villager’s perspective. Here is an excerpt from her travel diary:
“I wish I could share with you how it smells, how deliciously filling the food is, how beautiful the local music is, the sound of our guide singing as we cycle on, the rhythmic cadence of the geckos at night, the slow indulgent erasure of day into night, the absorption of the sun into the Gulf of Thailand that I witnessed last evening, the sound of one little child screaming hello from a rice paddy, the beautiful and mystifying rhythms of Khmer spoken. It is all too much to share and not enough to ever forget.”
Véronique’s week-and-a-half trip through Cambodia demonstrates how just a small tweak from one’s everyday routines can set a life in a whole new direction. Since returning home, she has committed herself to mentor and teach English to refugees staying in the U.S. for the International Rescue Committee.
Staying still has never been in Véronique’s nature. The daughter of a 30-year veteran of the Foreign Service, she lived in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Caribbean before settling in San Diego. In her first year at Administaff, Véronique took two weeks off at Christmas to visit Costa Rica and Haiti, where her parents were posted.
“I can’t go a year without going to a new country; I would go insane,” she adds. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any more PTO (paid time off) left. I’ve already used every single last day.”
Her PTO well may be dry, but her other resources at Administaff are abundant. More than 75 percent of Véronique’s fund raising for the trip came from fellow employees, including every member of her team.