Alex Ashton

Alex Ashton is a 17 year-old female student, who is currently living in rural NSW, Australia and studying at Mudgee High School. She enjoys travelling (and cannot wait to see more of the world!), art, photography and curling up with a cup of tea and a good book! Alex visited Goa, India during the summer before her final year at school (6th of January - 19th of January)

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with GoEco in India?

Alex: I decided to volunteer with GoEco mainly because it caters for people from 17 years of age, many of the similar programs didn’t.

It also had a wide range of countries and types of programs to choose from, and offered a variety of projects to participate in within each program.

I chose India because it seemed a little safer than other countries, which was a requirement of my mum.

Indian culture also has great appeal for me, I love their ideas surrounding family and life in general!

What did you find most surprising about the experience?

Alex: So many things about India surprised me!

The volunteer work surprised me because it had so much room for discretion. You could introduce so many new things to the people you were working with, ranging from new activities to a new part of their daily routine, or pretty much anything else you can think of!

I volunteered in a slum while I was in India, and the happiness of the kids was another thing that surprised me! I expected these kids who had so little to be unhappy, but in truth they seem a lot happier than many of the kids in my society, who are overwhelmed with material objects!

These kids do not even have a ball to play with, but have so much fun making up games and playing together with the basic things that the volunteers bring along.

Tell us about one person you met.

Alex: We met so many people whilst in India, the volunteers were incredible, the staff were so friendly and approachable, and most of the locals loved a chat - especially once they learned we weren’t Russian!

One particular local we met was from Colva Beach in Goa. He owned a jewelery shop and was very different to most of the shop owners we encountered.

He welcomed us into his shop, and offered us a cigarette and a cup of coffee or tea. He told us about the places he’d traveled to, and how the European stores had influenced the function of his own.

Where most Indians do not put price tags on their items and had an ‘Indian’ price and a ‘Tourist’ price, he had labels on everything, and told us of how good he thought the equality in countries such as Europe is. He was a very interesting man, and was well worth stopping to talk to!

If you could go back and do something differently, what would it be?

Alex: If I were to go back I would only change the length of my stay. Although I did miss home while I was away by the end of my two weeks I was craving more time with the volunteers and more time at our projects!

Some of the volunteers were staying for 11 + weeks, which would be incredible! As soon as we arrived we felt comfortable and at home. I can only imagine how comfortable you would feel at the end of 11 weeks!

Has your worldview changed as a result of your trip?

Alex: Yes, I think my worldview honestly has changed as a result of my trip.

I experienced things - both good and bad - that I would never have experienced in my sheltered life in Australia.

I was able to compare and contrast the day to day lives of the average Australian and the average Indian, as well as the average Norwegian and German as a result of the input from fellow volunteers.