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Care & Conservation Volunteering with Projects Abroad

Care & Conservation Volunteering with Projects Abroad

Hugo Legenne joined a 2 Week Special Care & Conservation Project in Costa Rica arranged with Year Out Group founder member Projects Abroad in summer 2013. Hugo has also now applied to join Projects Abroad again in Ghana in summer 2014.

My experience in Costa Rica was a wonderful opportunity. At first, I admit, I was quite nervous as it was the first time I was travelling such a long distance alone and to a region I wasn’t familiar with. However, from the moment I was picked up from the airport I felt welcomed. Also, the idea that all the other volunteers felt the same way as I did comforted me.

We stayed with a very friendly host family and I shared a room with a Japanese volunteer who spoke virtually no English, Spanish or French; this made communication complicated and hilarious at times. On our first day we were taken to a biodiversity museum, and then we were given a tour and observed the different types of ecosystems and animals that we would see during our second week in the jungle (for the conservation placement).

My first week

On Monday morning, we took a long trip to the school. We travelled in two minivans for about 40-50 minutes depending on traffic. Upon arrival we were given red ponchos and were assigned to different tasks. Many of the male volunteers in the group were assigned with the manual jobs, such as sand-papering and carrying heavier items (such as boxes) and painting the school.

During that week, on two different occasions we took a dance class and we learnt how to samba, salsa, tango and to dance other Latino-American cultural dances. This was quite an interesting experience as we got the opportunity to learn a new culture. Most of us were terrible at first, but step by step the teacher managed to make us look like dancers.

One evening our family celebrated their local Mother’s Day. In Costa Rica, family is very important, making Mother’s Day a very special day. We had flowers and music and many people were dancing making it a charming atmosphere. Some of us went to the supermarket to buy food to make for the family. I cooked spaghetti bolognese and received many compliments. This was a great night!

First weekend in Costa Rica

On Saturday morning, we said bye to the family, who wished us luck with the well-known “Pura Vida” saying. Then we embarked on a long journey across the country with our luggage strapped on top of two minivans. Having asked the staff members, we stopped to have lunch on one of the famous Costa Rican black-sanded beaches although it was cloudy. We had a swim, played frisbee, saw spider monkeys and chilled on the beach. It was a great experience.

The next day, we did a short trip to another park in the region where we got to experience zip-lining, tubing, horseback riding along with visiting the hot springs.

 

The Conservation Placement

The second week was full of very tough work. We were put into teams of 4 or 5 and were assigned different jobs. My first job was filling the gaps in the road, which had caused us to have a flat tire on our way up. For this we had a pickaxe, shovels and a wheelbarrow. Another manual job was the jungle track maintenance. This consisted in either rebuilding some damaged paths or creating paths from scatch (using a machete at first and then shovels). The least tiring jobs were probably the flora and fauna observation work, either of monkeys or of fungi, the data we recorded was then submitted to the government.

Free time

In our free time, we would either sun bathe listening to music, play cards or play a very intense chess game. Football with the local staff was also a favourite or visiting the pool, which was not too far from the accommodation.

On a special occasion the staff members brought us to some stunning waterfalls where we spent a whole afternoon. On our final day in the jungle, Alex, a Projects Abroad staff member, showed us a surprise. We were guided to a dark cabin where tons of fruit bats were hanging from the ceiling! This second week was exceptional; we were literally in the middle of a tropical forest, far from any signs of urban life listening to the sounds of chattering and screaching monkeys.

We had a tremendous time from start to end and this is why I will be volunteering again with Projects Abroad. I highly recommend you to follow this volunteering programme, if you like to experience a new culture, meet new people and have a good adventure!

Read more Volunteer Stories from the 2 Week Special Projects in Costa Rica