After a few months of hostels, street food and repetitive traveling conversations, I was ready for something new. I started remembering my year in Africa when I helped out drama troupes doing health awareness in schools and communities around The Gambia or when I took care of little ones in an orphanage in Soweto. It instantly brought a smile to my face. Those are some of my best traveling memories. I felt so close to the culture, I felt useful, I felt I had a purpose of traveling. Well, it didn’t take long until I was in search for my next volunteering project.
During this trip, I heard from many fellow backpackers about Workaway; an international platform where volunteering opportunities all around the world are posted for travellers to browse. Volunteers are usually expected to work for a few hours a day in exchange of a homestay and food. The job opportunities are endless: building a beach hostel on the coast of El Salvador, chartering a sailboat across the Caribbean Sea, teaching English in a primary school in Peru… those are all real examples of friends of mine. Workaway is the perfect way to contribute to the local communities while getting an authentic traveling experience (and of course saving a few bucks!).
After a quick research, I found myself in the rural village of El Dorado (in Honduras) helping out a small community-run organisation called Montaña de Vida. Robert, the coordinator of the program, firstly contacted me to teach English to the members of the group, which I did, as well as many other little things such as creating a tourism website, teaching computer skills, hiking in the forest in search of seeds for their plant nursery. I lend a hand in any way I could, and vice versa. They taught me all about coffee production, they helped me out with my Spanish, they showed me how to make tortillas. I believe I learned as much as I taught them. This is the beauty of volunteering.
I couldn’t have asked for a better first Workaway experience. Montaña de Vida is a dynamic and devoted group of young adults who are doing wonderful conservation work for the region’s rainforest and communities. Additionally, they are in the process of developing an eco-tourism enterprise as well as empowering the young generation to protect their natural environment. It is remarkable to see how a little group can make such a big difference. Dedication, passion and collaboration are the key to success. Montaña de Vida showed me that one little step at a time can go a long way. I truly have faith in their future.
Two weeks was the only time I could commit since I had other pre-arranged traveling plans with my parents, but it was enough to make a small difference in both their and my life. Volunteering whether it is for a couple of days or weeks, will leave you changed. We realise the power we have to make an impact in someone’s life. We are all born with skills and knowledge that can benefit someone else. All is needed is an open mind and a little bit of time to spare. We should all be helping each other. The more we will give, the more we will receive and better the world will be.
So, how can you leave your mark?