When I first read about Sadhana Forest Haiti, it sounded too good to be true. A vegan organization located in the Caribbean that plants indigenous drought-resistant food-producing trees for the poorest people on Earth for free?! As a person wanting to give back to the world, it was impossible to not choose Sadhana Forest Haiti!
Aiko is a 24-year old who calls the world her home. After finishing high school, she started a journey of finding her purpose, and she discovered many places around the globe that offer meaningful work. Volunteering for vegan organizations that serve the nature, the animals, and the people of this planet has made her dreams come true!
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Sadhana Forest Haiti has been supportive of every step I took in preparation of my trip! Even though I was hesitant at first to bother them with my questions, I was surprised every time I receive their instant answers which were always filled with a true sense of care. The interaction with the staff continued to be underlined by this warmth and personal care throughout my experience.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
My advice to future volunteers is to be ready for a unique experience on the edge of the world! It surely is not a holiday, and many things can be challenging, as life is just so different over there. Make sure to bring natural, vegan, cruelty-free mosquito repellent, and some light and thin trousers as well as long sleeve tops to not get annoyed by the mosquitoes. Other than that, bring an open mind and open heart.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
An average day starts with the wake-up call at sunrise and the morning circle where the community gets together to divide the seva (selfless service) of the day. Then, there are two shifts – one until breakfast and one after that until lunch. This is the time when you get to plant seeds in the nursery, go out planting in the private backyards of the local people, maintain the community, cook for each other, etc. On afternoons and weekends, you are mostly free to do whatever you like. You can go swimming in the Caribbean ocean, eat in a local Haitian restaurant, read in a hammock, or give workshops to the community.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
When I arrived at Sadhana Forest Haiti, I came straight from my home, a big city in Germany, and was excited for big changes. However, I was also concerned about how I would deal with the drastic change in my lifestyle – using compost toilets, living in the open nature without any doors, living in a community, dealing with a different climate, a different culture, a complete different feeling for life! In the end, I found myself adjusting and understanding that I am much more flexible than I thought. Big thanks to the Sadhana Forest Haiti staff that guided me though this unique experience!
What is the most memorable moment that comes to your mind?
I remember planting trees into the private backyard of a local Haitian with another volunteer who turned to me and said, “Can you believe it? These trees we are planting here will outgrow us. They will stay on Earth longer than we will and feed many many families with the food they will produce. This is the beginning for them. In their new home forever!”