Aside from just generally living the good life and learning as much Spanish as possible, another thing I really want to accomplish on my trip is to really get to know the places and cultures I visit. Aside from just making for richer, more memorable experiences, I also might be looking for an interesting corner of the world to ‘expatriate myself’ to… maybe. In any case, aside from traveling slowly and on a small budget, one of the best ways I can think of to accomplish all my goals while leaving behind something positive, is through volunteering.
At this point, I have four such experiences already in mind:
Belize’s Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary: Located on Central Belize’s Western Highway, this Sanctuary provides experiential learning opportunities for people interested in conservation and cultural exchanges. For a small fee of $25 a day, I plan to stay and eat at Monkey Bay for a week. I haven’t decided what type of project I would like to be a part of yet, but I’m thinking something related to conservation methods and ecology. These are topics I want to learn more about and this seems like the perfect way to not only donate my time, but to learn a lot myself (and stay under budget)! You have to apply to volunteer at Monkey Bay and I was told to get my application in by August at the latest, so I guess I will start thinking more about this soon.
San Pedro Spanish School, Guatemala: After much research about where to stay for 3-4 weeks to learn Spanish in Guatemala, I have landed on San Pedro Spanish school on Lake Atitlan. I chose this school for several reasons including location, reputation, and cost, but also opportunity to volunteer.
A portion of the cost to attend this school goes directly to the Ninos del Lago project, helping to support the education of Lake Atitlan’s children. The fees I will pay (which are amazing by the way; $205/week for 20 hours of 1 on 1 instruction plus room and board) help pay the children’s teacher’s salaries, for the cost of their classes and other expenses. Not only will my money benefit this organization, but as a student at San Pedro, I will also have the opportunity to donate my time to work with the kids as well!
Wwoof Italy: As I have mentioned, I have always wanted to spend an extended period of time in Italy and this is my chance! But, with a budget of $50 a day, it would be difficult to stay for more than a few weeks. This is where the World Wide Organization of Organic Farms (Wwoof) comes in. At this point I am planning to volunteer on a farm for about a month. If I have it my way it will be on a vineyard or other fruit orchard (unrealistic daydreams at play here). In exchange for my labor, I will get a place to stay and food to eat. The only cost to the volunteer is for the actual annual membership to the Wwoof chapter that you plan to volunteer through. This cost (about $35 USD for Italy) also includes insurance that covers you while you are volunteering. This will be the perfect way for me to spend a few weeks in one beautiful part of the country without breaking the bank.
Fundacion Pro Ninos de Darien, Panama: I mentioned in my last post that I would like to visit the Darien region of Panama, but am afraid it may be too expensive. Well, I may have found the perfect way to see this region, learn about its culture and continue to volunteer my time: Fundacion Pro Ninos de Darien. This non-profit organization aims at improving the quality of life for the children of the Darien through nutrition, education, health and community development projects. I still have to do more research on this organization, but I read that they sometimes accept volunteers so I think I will apply!
I would still like to include 1 or 2 more of these experiences on my trip so I have a bit more looking around to do to figure out where and in what ways I can do something good out there. Does anyone have suggestions?