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I spent five weeks in Punakaiki, at the New Zealand Conservation Experience project both as my first experience outside of the United States and as my internship. It was kind of nerve-racking at first because of being somewhere totally new and not knowing exactly what to expect, but in the end, it was totally worth it!
Volunteering in one of the local daycare centers was quite the experience as I was able to see firsthand how important it is to learn English at such an early age, especially in a poverty stricken country, such as the Philippines. I didn’t spend my time simply teaching English, however, I also taught simple things such as shapes, colors, songs, using manners, and how to show respect.
We planted vegetation to help stop erosion, prepared plantings in our homestay, went on a six hour trek, visited a number of historical and Buddhist sites and experienced the culture with the Akha people almost continually throughout the week. The Akha are the most tolerant and accepting of others of any group I have ever met. As far as an immersion learning experience goes, it would be hard to match.
I do not have enough words to describe the depth of the experience. I only know that the people I’ve met have influenced my life and I strongly recommend volunteering in this village. They need lots of help in establishing educational center and the overall experience for the volunteers is one of a kind and very rewarding… I recommend it to all those interested.
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