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01869 338890

A Team Volunteer Placement in Venezuela

These blogs were written by George Dabby (18, below) who is currently on his gap year with The Leap in Venezuela. He is completing a 10 week Team volunteer placement which combines community, marine conservation and reforestation projects with adventurous mountaineering and Spanish.

Week 1

George relaxing on his volunteer placement with The Leap in VenezuelaHola from Venezuela!

I´m George and I´ll be keeping you updated on our activities over the next ten weeks. We've just finished our first week and our first project and there are many burnt, tanned and satisfied Leapers to speak of.

We arrived at Jakera safely after a smooth trip which was only ensured after Venezuela´s (rarely) attentative flight staff shepherded us off a plane bound for Maracaibo.

We are staying at Jakera Lodge, which after one week has already started to feel like home and while the girls are sleeping on beds, Luke and I can´t imagine sleeping on anything other than a hammock. Highlights so far include our salsa lessons, which really brought out the ´Britishness´ of los britanicos.

Our first project was on the island of Punta Morena, a poor fishing village near our town of Playa Colorado. Having been shown around the Village´s School on our first day in Venezuela we prepared our project. Teaching and repairing were on the agenda and our first task was to sand down and re-paint the school´s chairs and tables, which was far more arduous than we first imagined, especially as Venezuela´s rainy season decided that it wasn´t quite finished.

On the boat home after our first day we were treated to a spontaneous and truly memorable experience as we found ourselves surrounded by hundreds of dolphins swimming alongside us, thanks mainly to Manuel´s ability to speak to them!

We returned this afternoon from a two-day camping trip on the banks of the Punta Morena in the middle of the Mochima National Park as part of our work with the primary school in Punta Morena, which also involved a two-hour kayak, filled with capsizing kayaks, bad singing and a lot of sun burn (most of which is Luke´s).

Having finished our manual labour we spent a day with the kids playing baseball and teaching English. The experience was so rewarding. The enthusiasm of the children to play and learn and their genuine excitement at our arrival gave us all wonderful memories, as did our camping experience underneath a blanket of stars with Harrison´s fine cooking!

Tomorrow we begin our next project with the Jakera Club in Playa Colarada, an after-school club for the children of Playa´s barrios which does so much to give enjoyment to these kids. I´ll be sure to update you on our progress next week.

Until then, hasta luego!

Week 2

Hola a todos!

Apologies for being slightly late on the second Venezuela blog. I was sitting down to write last night when Playa Colorada experienced a blackout that gave our chef, Grysillis, a real test as she cooked our fish.  Fortunately we have now returned to normality.

Yesterday marked the end of our second week and the end of a busy week renovating Jakera Club, the after-school activities club in Playa Colorada for local children. The building was originally built in 2007 but six years on it was our turn to re-paint and re-design the front and landscape the hugely overgrown garden. We have some great ´before and after´ shots that we´ll send to you soon. On that note, we´re sorry about the lack of photos. I tried to send some yesterday but as you can imagine, Playa Colorada doesn´t have the strongest Internet connection so we´ll send over a batch when we´re next in Puerta La Cruz.

Today was a really exciting day. On Monday Jakera Club starts. The building is ready and looking fantastic and every day for the next two weeks The Leapers will be hosting classes throughout the day, ranging from football and baseball to arts and crafts, as well as English lessons for the entire community. Tilly, Sheona and I have already given English lessons to adults who have come voluntarily tolearn in the evenings and we´re excited to see how our ´students´ will progress! Today, however, was marketing day for Jakera Club, which meant we had to go to the local primary and secondary school to deliver speeches to kidsaged anywhere between 7-16. Delivering a speech in your own language is nerve-racking enough, but we never expected to give a speech in Spanish after two weeks of lessons. We received a really positive reaction from the kids though, and when asked if they would attend Jakera Club on Monday, there wasn´t a single hand not raised. Afterwards we organized a few games of football and we now have the potential to set up a team which the boys were very excitedabout.

Work aside, tanning remains the hot topic of conversation among the girls. Tilly is adamant that she is getting browner every day. We tell her she is to keep her happy. We also had another dance lesson yesterday, this time to learn Merengue. Afterdrinking some fine Venezuelan rum we braved the dance floor and by the end all The Leapers (myself excluded) were dancing with real flair. A satisfying night for most! Tomorrow we head off very early for a long weekend in Isla Margherita, Venezuela´s legendary party island, so I´m sure there´ll be some stories to tell about that.

Until then, hasta luego!


Week 3

Hola a todos!

It seems incredible to all of us that we´re reaching the end of our third week here in Venezuela. It feels like only a few days ago that we nervously set off on this gap year adventure. This last week has been all about Jakera Club. We finished off the last touches last week and since Monday we´ve been giving lessons all day.

So far the experience has been hugely rewarding. We were all nervous going into our first schedule of activities but the enthusiasm of Playa´s children has helped us all to ease up. The first Leapers were almost overwhelmed with the amount of kids that showed up, with Katie reporting that trying to control twenty kids in a foreign language not being the easiest thing. Fortunately the biggest difficulty we´ve had has been getting the kids to leave at the end of their classes, which has to be down to how much fun they´re having. The girls are fanatical about arts and crafts while the boys can´t wait to go outside and play football.

Our daily English classes for the adults of Playa have also been going really well, and it's been great to see attendance rise over the last week and to see the original attendees keep coming day after day!

Our weekend in Isla Margerita was also fantastic. We had to wake up far too early on Friday morning to take a ferry from Puerta La Cruz to Isla Margherita, but the trip was well worth it. Staying in a hotel with hot showers, an open bar and a connected pool was complete luxury and we were all sad to leave on Sunday morning, but there´s only so many Pina Colada´s one can have on a Carribean beach...

Some of us are planning to go on a trip to the Orinoco Delta for a camping trip the weekend before we head off to the jungle phase of the project in Caripe but until then we're continuing our work here at the Jakera Club. Can´t say we´re too jealous of all of you in the snow!

Hasta luego!


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