I did the Marine Conservation Expedition in The Seychellen: What an amazing experience. You live on a base camp in Cap Ternay, Mahé island. The island is absolutely breath taking beautiful, with it's white beaches and clear blue sea. And that's the office! You have 1 or 2 dives a day to do underwater surveys in either fish/coral/invertebrates. The first two weeks of the program are pretty fully booked with PADI Advanced, EFR, Marine Biology and your survey domain training. And of course everybody needs to help out on base as well, to make sure it's all clean and that you get a nice meal :) But of course you'll spend most of your time on the stunning coral reefs. When I was there, the age range of the volunteers was very wide, from 18 to 44, and we had about 20 volunteers and 8 staff. You get two days off a week in which you can go to one of the many stunning beaches, or keep your family posted on your adventures from the internet cafe in Victoria (the capital). This expedition was truly an amazing experience, I would highly recommend it.
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Global Vision International (GVI)
If someone had told me one year ago that I would soon travel to the Costa Rican jungle with complete strangers for two months, I would have laughed. Traveling is something I enjoy, but for short periods of time and in familiar places. Studying wildlife without a background in anything relevant? Eating meals without any dairy? Tromping through mud pits expecting it to pour into my boots? Not me.
Or so I thought.
When it came time to plan out my GAP year, I knew I wanted to do three things, in whatever order or form they took: an Outward Bound Program, which I did and enjoyed; work, which I have done and am doing; and travel. The last one, presented to me in the form of Global Vision International, is far and away my favorite.
Getting to fall asleep every night to the sound of Caribbean waves, strolling for hours without boredom through the dynamic forest, preparing a huge pot of curry for a group of hungry people. They tell you to lose all expectations when you step onto the plane, and I tried. But nothing could prepare me for the experiences I had on a daily basis as if it were the most normal of things: massive hawksbill turtle and the defiant heat of the sun. The surprisingly delicious gallo pinto and the wreckage of army ants. The call of tropical birds and the suppressed thud of a kicked coconut. The endless watercolor sky and the freedom to just sit and read. None of these experiences I could have had without the wonderful program that is GVI or the wonderful research base that is Jalova.
In rural Vermont, which is my true home, I have a very limited scope on so many things. In Costa Rica I met people from all over the world with incredible stories and opinions and perceptions on life. I shared the kind of laughter that bridges continents. We played card games and discussed everything- customs, movies, politics, school, travel, and religion. It made me proud to be the only cold-blooded American volunteer, at least for the first month, and as such I found myself unusually outgoing to the two Americans that joined us later on. I though I was going to Jalova for the flora and the fauna and résumé, but I stayed because my heart attached to the jungle and it’s creatures.
Because what goes on there IS everyday. It is exotic to us because we don’t see it, but the ways of the rainforest have been existent for as long as time. To be in a place like that gives modesty a whole new meaning, but moreover it gives inspiration and a peace of mind. There’s no better trip to take.
After being forced to take a gap year not getting the grades I needed to go to university, I was left with the perfect opportunity to do something worthwhile with my time in between retaking exams. Going to Thailand on my own has taught me so much despite the fact I was only able to do a 2 week programme. It was a great way to gain independence, but more importantly has taught me the importance of volunteering. Through teaching in schools and working within the community in Baan Nam Khem it has really broadened my mind, meeting a wide range of interesting people, both adults and children, and by the end of your time spent there you don’t feel like a tourist but more like one of the locals. The GVI team based in Baan Nam Khem were incredibly supportive and enthusiastic in their work, which quickly rubs off on you, so that you can really enjoy your project whilst also feeling a real sense of achievement at the end of each day. Being able to fully submerge myself into the Thai culture really adds to the experience, making a nice change from everyday life back at home, getting you out of routine. As I only got to spend a short time in Thailand, it has left me wanting more from volunteering, to which I am looking into doing another project in the very near future! I would highly recommend GVI to anyone, not just in Thailand, but to any of the exciting destinations they have to offer, without a doubt it is one of the best experiences I have done.
My husband and I had amazing memorable time volunteering in Nepal for one month, with weekends off to explore the breathtaking surrounding Annapurna South area.
We worked across four projects: child care centre, street kids rehabilitation centre and conversation club and also, a school in a nearby village. We were scheduled for two of these programs each day. We had lots of variety across these projects and met daily throughout the week with GVI staff for updates and opportunity to share concerns etc..
Key to working in these communities is expect the unexpected and be flexible. We didn’t expect to work in the school as we were under childcare but due to Dasai schools and childcare centre was closed so we assisted with scrubbing walls in preparation for painting. We valued the opportunity to see another part of the working community and meet an amazing principal who built the school from conception. Likewise, GVI staff were flexible too, one day I felt quite tired and exhausted recovering from a sore throat and irritating cough and took a morning off. Also, we wanted to do a trek for longer than a weekend so took a day off either side of the weekend (this was during Dasai and regular volunteer programs were disrupted) and staff happily supported us to do this.
Our 'home stay' was great , it was really more of a guest house as the entire second floor was four bedrooms rooms with individual ensuites and access without going through the main house. This wasn’t really what we expected for a home stay but it was very much appreciated to have our space and privacy after our days adventures! The food ranged between good and excellent. But we were happy, a hot meal at the end of the day that we didn’t have to prepare and we had no tummy bugs the whole time we were there!
We have an aspiration in many years to come when we are retired from paid work to work 3 months of the year overseas in communities. We want to trial different organisations to identify an organisation that aligns with our values and provides support and training on the ground so that we can have both positive impact and enjoyable rewarding experience. Orientation was comprehensive, loved our language classes to help get us started and training for our roles was well supported. Nothing was too much trouble for our on the ground GVI staff.
These children are forever imprinted in our hearts and minds. At Malee Patan child care centre: Sabitri for her resilience and strong spirit, Blipblob for his warmth of nature and amazing soccer kick for such a lithe body; Kripa and Isha, who always sought each other out then huddled and chattered with enthusiasm; Samir just wanting to be noticed and learning from us hitting is not the way to do it!; Ayusha, fine features and with his quiet ways who was always hanging onto my husband’s leg; At conversation club the two pairs of sister we spent many hours chatting and laughing: Srijana for her high aspirations and maturity taught us origami; younger sister Safel who wants to be an architectural engineer; Sarchita only a little older than sister Rojish very capable but lacking a little in confidence. Their warmth and friendship will always be with us. And we are grateful for what they have taught us.
GVI has set the bar high for us in considering other volunteer organisations to explore!
I volunteered for a month in the Seychelles after browsing the internet endlessly trying to find the best place and program to go on. Stepping off the aeroplane into the humid environment was a shock at first, you could feel the sweat drip down your face. My first thought was it was going to be a hot, sticky, smelly month of volunteering and working outdoors all day - it was. Yet I had enrolled in the terrestrial expedition so was based on Curieuse Island, which to my relief was not quite so hot. The staff were all extremely friendly and the facilities were pretty good, a lot better than I had expected at any rate. The first week was mainly dedicated to learning about the different activities we would participate in, the scientific procedures that went with them and undertaking a first aid course.
We went on many long and short 'wurtles' (turtle walks) to the other side of the island where we generally saw a turtle nesting or a hatchling each time we went. The turtle beaches are not accessible to the public, so it was great being able to go to them by being apart of GVI. We also started bird surveys - we were the first group to begin recording the different species found on the island which was a fun but sometimes challenging task. When the ground was dry we were able to go 'Coco de Mering', braving through dense scrub to find the trees and record their locations. It was a lot of fun, but you got very dirty and covered in red paint! We went snorkelling as much as possible, seeing many reef fish, rays, the odd shark and looking out for turtles to record. It was great to come back to base after a hot days work to dive into the nice warm ocean and then lay on the hammocks and read before dinner. The week ended with a Friday Night BBQ, generally themed and was a great time to relax and have fun.
On the weekends you had free time so were able to do whatever you wanted. Being associated with GVI also gave us many local discounts, so travelling was quite affordable. We went to a couple of different islands, my favourite being La Digue where we hired bikes and relaxed on the beach.
The experience was quite unreal, if I had the opportunity again I would definitely go back!
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