Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Love Volunteers in Equador?
Jim: I chose to work with the Love Volunteers in Equador based on the recommendations and research of a friend with whom I was travelling. She looked into numerous organizations and chose Love Volunteers based on their reputation and the variety of unique and interesting opportunities they offer, such as the one we chose in the Galapagos Islands. We were at the station from April 24 to May 4, 2012.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer:
Jim: The main goal of the station I was working with (Jatun Sacha on San Cristobal) is to lower the impact of invasive plant species on the island and to focus on reforestation projects. Our main tasks in this involved removing invasive species from the station and local surrounding farms, then planting native/endemic species in their place, as well as helping prepare coffee plants for distribution to local farmers at a greenhouse in the highlands. Other less-frequent but interesting tasks were mixed in as well, ranging from picking fruit in the jungle to helping the National Parks department prepare for a marathon hosted on the island.
What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special? What advice do you have for future volunteers?
Jim: For volunteers specifically interested in working with Love Volunteers on the Galapagos, I would recommend a few things to make the experience and travel more enjoyable. Definitely bring lots of insect repellent and a mosquito net hat. Also be sure to have some long-sleeved, light-colored clothing: the insects are feisty in the jungle highlands, but with these precautions one shouldn't have too many concerns. The station has a huge collection of rubber boots to borrow, so if you don't want to have to pack these on your travels you can likely find a pair to make use of. The only way to guarantee that you'll have a pair that fits comfortably is to bring your own, but if I had to do the trip again I would have just borrowed from the station and saved the room in my backpack. Otherwise my only advice is to be ready for hot, humid conditions with some hard work mixed in for a few of the days, but it's all for a good cause and an ultimately rewarding and unique experience.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Jim: This was really the best trip I have ever taken for two main reasons. Firstly, the people involved were all extremely friendly, helpful, and informative. This applies to the staff with Love Volunteers as well as the staff and other volunteers at our placement on the Galapagos. If you enjoy meeting and working with good people, as well as learning a lot about the people and the islands themselves, this is definitely an opportunity I highly recommend. Secondly, the scenery and wildlife on the Galapagos islands are fascinating and beautiful. Literally every day had me saying "Wow" out loud to something I was seeing or experiencing. It's an absolutely beautiful and unique place on Earth to explore, and doing so as a volunteer offers some opportunities that you would not ordinarily get to experience as a regular tourist to the islands.