Alumni Spotlight: Jess Watts

Jessica Watts is from Peterborough, England and currently works at an oilfield company in Canada. She attended University in Plymouth and went on the Ecuador trip in January 2013 when she was 21. She enjoys taking landscape pictures and spending time with her family and friends.

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with The Leap in Ecuador?

Jess joining in with the games at a community party.

Jess: I decided to volunteer with The Leap as I wanted to go traveling but didn't want to go on my own as it was the first time I would have left the country on my own. The Leap offered me the chance to go abroad on my own but be provided with a safety net of people I could go to for help.

I choose Ecuador in particular as I was able to go to the Galapagos Islands which looked amazing and I felt I might not ever get the chance to go there again.

Tell us about one person you met.

Jess: While volunteering in one of the communities I met a man who was explaining to us that he may not ever have the things and opportunities which we have but he was happy with his situation and know that this was the life he had been given and he was grateful for what he did have.

He said he enjoyed having us come to visit his community and volunteer to do work for them. I felt this was a great insight into his life and every time something is not going the way I would like it to, I always remember what he said and am grateful for everything I have been given.

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

 Watching the sunset on the Galapagos Island.

Jess: I feel by going on the trip my worldview has changed as I was able to see how other people live their life's and experience different traditions and cultures. This widened my knowledge of how things can be totally different to the way we live our life's but the outcome is always the same.

As they were very happy with the way they do things, it shows that you don't always have to do tasks in the same way.

What do you miss the most about Ecuador or your experience?

Jess: I miss experiencing the different cultures and trying different ways of living as when we were with the communities we lived as they do and got to eat the same food as them which was really cool.

I also miss living with the other volunteers as I made some friends for life. Now that we have come back home, I don't get to see them as much.

What was the best moment of the entire trip?

Jess's room for two weeks while living in the rainforest.

Jess: My best moment of the trip was celebrating my birthday on the Galapagos Island. It was absolutely great and even though I hadn't known the people I was with for very long they made sure I had a great day.

I had two birthday cakes made for me and we all went out for a meal in the evening after we had finished volunteering for the day. Another great moment was swimming with sea turtles as they are incredible and you could get up real close with them.

The best volunteering part for me was in the rainforest planting cocoa plants as I felt I was really helping the community and meeting the targets for how many they would have liked us to plant was a great achievement.