I have to admit that I haven't been through situations like hers, but I strongly plan to do so in the future. What better way of trying to plan my start in it than by reading about other people's experiences? Being a volunteer is a very delicate thing, delicate for everyone else but the volunteer himself. I think that our knowledge and drive to change things get in the way of any type of approach and contact, and that before "doing" anything one must learn and try to be as much of a local as possible. Understanding daily rituals, and casual traditions is the first step, and learning a bit more about how to communicate follows.
In my field, or future field, the number of architects that take the time to really understand the people they are designing for are scarce. This is the number one cause for lack of empathy and care for the projects, and consequently cities. Because I plan on acting in the humanitarian side of architecture, I feel that the skills to design and build these projects will be part of me by the time I start working, but the skills in communication and anthropological understandings are the ones I must expand on before I begin.