Lucy’s Volunteer Experience in Spain – Getting wet in Valencia’s Wetlands

Posted by: Lucy

I wasn’t sure what to expect before coming to the Conservation Projects in the Valencia Region project, but I knew I would enjoy working with like minded people in the sunny part of Europe. I went in January, and only Spain was at that time sunny and mildly warm. The rest of Europe was dealing with cold and wintry weather, and I was happy to escape the grey skies of my home city of Amsterdam.

We – the volunteers – were led by a passionate Spanish pensionado who only spoke in Spanish to us, but was able to explain everything using hands and feet. He had an extraordinary warm personality and just meeting this passionate local was worth joining. Not only did he guide us through the field and explain the work that needed to be done (cleaning up the algae from the water, pulling out the plants that they didn’t want there, helping mountain water finding its way to sea etc.), he shared many stories and cultural information with us. A regular tourist would never be able to soak in that much inside information.

Since the project work was only half days, it was very nice that I could join some activities organized by a local language school. I met some people who were learning Spanish and it crossed my mind that I must be learning just as much Spanish outside the class room as they were inside. Even more so, by actually seeing and feeling things I didn’t have much trouble remembering their Spanish words.

A great thing of working in the wetlands in a close proximity to the city is that it gives you the opportunity to experience all that Valencia has to offer culturally (the architecture and food are amazing!) but that you get to explore it’s surrounding countryside and protected natural areas as well. Albufera national park, on the south side of Valencia, is just as stunning as climbing the 200 steps of the cathedral. It gives you a broader dimension of the city, you actually see where they grow the rice of your paella.

It’s hard not to fall in love with the country. I decided shortly before starting this project that I would use my time in the project to see if I could stay for a longer period in this part of the world. I managed to get in contact with some people that could help me live and work there. Joining this volunteer program definitely was a unique experience and I could recommend it to anyone who likes to experience a holiday destination from another point of view.