Volunteering and Internships for Students
I’ve never been a morning person, so rising at 3am didn’t seem appealing at first, but the morning patrol was always my favorite. At least during my time on the project, the morning patrols were much more active. Baby turtles were hatching from their nests, and we helped them down to the ocean so they could avoid beach predators. Only 1 in every 1000 turtles lives to adulthood, so saving those that actually hatched, from a beach massacre was important!
The whole experience was humbling, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get up close and personal with all sorts of animals but more importantly to me it helped me learn and understand the troubles that animals are faced with and what this particular organisation is doing to protect endangered species such as the cheetah. I have a lot of fond memories of the people who I worked with and the animals I was fortunate enough to get to know and those memories will never fade.
Typical days at the African Wildlife Ranch aren’t typical at all. Each day provided for a new opportunity to help improve the lives of the animals at the ranch. Whether it was assisting with cleaning enclosures each morning, preparing food for various animals, providing enrichment to one of the many wonderful animals, building and preparing enrichment opportunities or assisting with project work, there was always something new to keep you focused on.
We were lucky and had a multitude of striped dolphin pod sightings, bottlenose sightings, and we had four sperm whale sightings. We even documented a new sperm whale, who swam very close to the boat and we were able to get amazing footage of him! When there are sightings you videotape on the stern with the gopro camera, take pictures using high resolution cameras, and would have the acoustic equipment on to record/locate the communication of the dolphins or whales.
A truly memorable experience was refereeing two days of soccer. The monks truly love the sport and had a 2 day schoolhouse tournament, which I was requested to referee. The youngest monks were the spectators and cheerleaders, beating plastic bottles and plastic drums, cheering their houses on.They played on a small pitch dug out of the side of (literally) a mountain, the ground was dirt and the goals made out of metal poles. In two hours of soccer, I think I only had to give a single foul, which to me exemplifies the spirit of comradeship and gregarious nature of these incredible people.
In addition to the teaching, I got to work at an orphanage in Kathmandu. I cannot explain the affect of those astoundingly beautiful children. Just to hold a child in need of a hug. To feel a hand slip so readily into yours simply to feel love and affection freely given. To feel special to someone. It bursts your heart. Their delight in each other and what little they have is truly inspiring and I will never forget them.
At the orphanage we could do many things: construction, painting, building, playing with the children in the afternoon, and teaching English to Thai people. I taught English and it was the best feeling ever. It was extremely rewarding and my students were very thankful. They were incredibly sweet and very eager to learn. I felt a really strong connection to them and looked forward each day to seeing them again. It may sound as a cliché but I gained so much more than I gave. Volunteering at the orphanage gave me insight into the culture in a way I could have never gotten as a tourist. It really is waging peace through justice worldwide.
And of course, my favorite project, teaching English. You don’t need any experience at all because it is very basic stuff – such as going through the alphabet, counting, pointing at objects and saying the words in English. They mostly just appreciate you being there. Spending time with them was amazing and something which I will never forget and always cherish!
The look on my students' faces when they got the hang of a new English word was priceless. While the sights and sounds of Bali are intoxicating, the real treat is rolling up your sleeves and doing some good in the world. This project has a real positive impact – namely, giving kids a leg up in getting a job later in Indonesia's growing tourism industry. If they can speak English, it will be easier for them to make money for themselves. On my last day, I told my students to study hard so that some day I might come back and speak to them in English fluently.
Volunteering in Indonesia was more than a simple experience, it was an opportunity I had to challenge myself as I have never done before. I have met some of the most interesting and passionate people on the planet and shared with them my life, my interests, my pictures and my dreams. Together we had the unique opportunity to discover the country, its people and its amazing environment from the privileged viewpoint of a volunteer.
I can only describe this trip as one of the happiest times of my life; being able to integrate everyday with people from all over the world and having the whole of Barcelona on your doorstop was incredible. It has completely changed my perspective on the world and I can’t wait but to explore more of it!
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