Overall, one cannot but be impressed and humbled by the whole experience and you will come away (with difficulty and a heavy heart because of the love and lessons those children with so very little have taught you in such a short time) inspired to take back home some of those simple “rules” and customs of teaching, so often lost or forgotten in our modern obsession for league tables and political correctness.
Friday’s are a bit different because that’s test day, the children LOVE this though, as they get to see what they’ve learnt through the week and after an hour or so of tests are free to play. One Friday it was so hot we all ran through a fence at the back of the school and jumped in to a huge pond to cool off. All the kids who could swim were jumping in with us and the ones who couldn’t we were hugging and splashing.
It was such a rewarding project to be involved in, as at the end of each day, I could see the nests that I had protected, and know that I had done my part towards saving the turtles, and saving the planet. One of the staff members who was supervising us said, “the best feeling on earth is saving a life that can never repay you”. Helping to save those turtles made me see the truth behind these words.
Everything is really well organized and straightforward. There are three shifts. Two at night and one in the morning and obviously, you will never get more than one shift per day. The night shifts involve walking along the beach looking for turtles and waiting for them to nest. If they nest you get to watch them lay eggs and help measure and tag them. It’s honestly an amazing experience because it’s something so different and unique. The morning patrols consist of writing down all the turtle tracks and finding nests to help secure them.
I volunteered with ‘street children’ at a local school. The volunteers and I were welcomed with lays, blessed with bracelets, and milk tea. I spent my time teaching English, mathematics, playing, singing, dancing, and learning from the children themselves, as they taught me even more than I could ever teach them. After volunteering, we would head off to some more tourist activities such as, visiting the Akshardham Temple and watching their magnificent water show.
Our way of living in the West differs drastically from the way people live in India. As volunteers we saw incredible things we would have never imagined during our stay, such as how people really live in the slums. This was thanks to coming as a volunteer rather than as a tourist, which allowed us to immerse ourselves into the culture in a special way. We were able to see this unbelievably chaotic borough from the inside (even the inside of the houses!) thanks to the children (students from the school) who guided us through.
When I arrived on the Casamiccciola’s harbor I was anxious. I had many questions on my mind: am I ready to leave my comfort zone and to adapt myself to a life on a boat? Will I be useful on the searches and in the sailing? Will the other crew members be welcoming and sympathetic? I was optimistic on this point and I was entirely right.
Some nights we would go to restaurants and pizzerias in Casamicciola, Ischia Porto and on Mt. Epomeo. It was a great way to see the island. There was alwayszuch an energetic and happy atmosphere on board and everyone was just so fascinating and lovely to talk to; you really make amazing connections. Don’t even worry about learning Italian, ba bene (a phrase you’ll most definitely learn that means “it’s alright”), you can easily learn a bit on board!
It was interesting to be a volunteer in Madagascar. I think this experience was full of change and pleasure. My project was Wildlife Research and Conservation and when I arrived at the camp, everyone said hello to me with big smile and enthusiasm. It made me feel like home; like we were family.
Teaching women through the Women’s Empowerment program, I was able to deeply connect with the Nepali women I worked with, even considering the huge language barrier between us. It was a joy and honor to teach them. I We spent the lessons laughing and actively interacting with each other, ensuring that they were learning as much as possible. It was very hard to leave them after three weeks. In such a short time, they embraced me into their world.