Why did you decide to Volunteer/Intern abroad with Kalu Yala?
John: Before making my decision to intern with Kalu Yala, I spent a large amount of time debating to go abroad or stay home in the Carolinas. Instead of weighing the pros and cons, I decided that I needed to make this journey based on the level of comfort that I would be enduring. The less comfort, the better. That is exactly what happened, too!
If an internship is meant to be a learning opportunity, than your experience at Kalu Yala will teach you more about yourself than any classroom or seminar, hands down. I am incredibly glad that I went out on a limb and immersed myself in such a surreal experience.
How has the experience impacted your future?
John: My time with Kalu Yala fostered a fundamental change in my definition of progress. I used to think progress meant profit; monetarily speaking. I still see myself as an entrepreneur, no doubt, but I now focus on the social impact of my ventures. You will learn a large amount about sustainable business practices firsthand from Kate Stewart and her brother, Jimmy Stice. The connections that I was able to make with Kalu Yala are ones that I will continue to grow and cherish for a lifetime.
If you long to fall asleep under the stars in the clearest night sky, wake up to the song of tropical birds and sunshine, then Kalu Yala is right up your alley.
Where was your best photo taken and what was it of?
John: If you so choose to become a “Valley” intern like myself then you are going to have to endure one of the most rewarding hikes that you will ever go on. The hike in to the valley is about three miles long, with the last ¾ of a mile dubbed as “Suicide Hill”. The name suits it pretty well, it is a pretty steep decline/incline depending on which direction you are going in. This photograph was taken at the top of “Suicide Hill” looking into the valley where you will be living. The physical and mental strength that you gain from this internship are incredible.
Tell us about any interesting cultural tidbits you noticed about your country.
John: I was initially skeptical about feeling like an intruder on foreign lands but I quickly learned of the giving nature of the local campesinos. You will not find a group of people that are harder working, friendlier or more humorous than the Panamanians. They were very accepting and very willing to teach me about their culture and we shared some hearty laughs along the way.
Describe a goal you set and how you went about accomplishing it.
John: The only goal I set before I arrived was to keep an open mind. Easy goal to set, and with all of the different people I met, it was an easy goal to accomplish. Everyday was a new adventure with bright, like-minded individuals. I guarantee that you will not regret this experience in the slightest.