Alumni Spotlight: Hannah Cooke

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with GVI in Costa Rica?

Hannah: Always wanting to volunteer, I was particularly interested in travelling and seeing Latin America, so I decided to refine my search to Central or South America. Having been in the workforce for almost three years I wanted to gain something out of the experience, too. Doing a lot of 'homework' over the months I came across the GVI website: The information was clean and plentiful, I knew where my money would be going, and they looked really well established.

I finally decided on the Costa Rica expedition as it provided variety and also allowed me to gain some skills and knowledge out of it, and above all, it was something I had never done before.

GVI Volunteers in Costa Rica

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

Hannah: After the first couple of weeks of intensive training we started doing survey's twice a day for 5 days with one half day and one day of rest. The surveys could be through the jungle, on the canals or on the beach. It was a great variety and we were exposed to a diverse number of wild species. Each Saturday night we would hold our breath as the rota went up for the week, most people were hoping they would not be on camp duty (cooking and cleaning camp for the day).

Our days would generally start at 4.30 in the morning depending on what you had rostered on for the day. You would be back at base some time during the morning for lunch at 11am- believe me by that stage you are super hungry! You then have a seista for a couple of hours were you can; seista, go to the beach, read a book, or all of the above. Afternoon surveys start around 2pm where you go out for a much shorter time period before arriving back at base for dinner at 5pm. You then have free time until the generator is turned off at 8pm and you can either go to the safety of your bed and the mozzie net, or stay up with your head torch and risk the bugs flying into your face, and biting you all over!

Volunteers helping to preserve Costa Rica's beautiful countryside

How has this experience impacted your future?

Hannah: The experience has opened up my eyes to conservation and the wider global issues outside of Australia. Personally, I believe I have grown as a person, the close living quarters, and the team environment that was created while on base, has allowed me to better understand dynamics better, and how to better contribute to a team.

Professionally the experience has provided me with the opportunity to further myself in my professional career, and allowed me to consider positions I perhaps otherwise wouldn't have.

Overall, I have opened my horizons for the future, and have made some life long friends, and contacts.