Why did you choose this program?
First was my families concerns. My parents preferred me not go alone so I brought up the idea of going with a volunteer organization. My friend had just returned safely with GIVE so that was a good selling point to my parents. We then had a couple phone calls with GIVE which helped my mom feel safe and secure with the trip. Next was what I wanted. Of course I wanted to travel and see a different culture to what I was used too. But I also wanted to make a difference and leave some sort of positive handprint on a community. GIVE's goals and history showed me that this organization was perfect to help me follow my dream and stay safe along the way.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Mostly I did it on my own. Although I used their recommended flight agents (student universe) to get there I relied heavily on myself for everything else. I used previous reviews as well as calls for with GIVE to do my initial planning. These calls helped a lot and I really encourage taking advantage of their helpful staff. When getting closer to the trip I was able to rely on other volunteers to help me with packing and preparing.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
I wish I brought a couple pairs of nicer clothing. Although you do work hard a lot of time can be used to relax with friends and some nicer clothing could help with looking nice in pictures. I kind of already knew this but I think it needs to be highlighted that you do not need to worry about making friends. Everyone on this trip clicks immediately and if you just be yourself the relationships you build with others will be incomparable to anything else. If you are thinking about going all I can say is do it. It will allow you to grow so much as a person and learn so much about another culture and community.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Some days were different if they included cultural activities, surfing, hiking, or shopping but a lot of them were similar. We would wake up early to either squeeze in a quick swim or to just read on the hammocks. Breakfast was often served at 8am, don't be late! Once done with breakfast we would split into two groups half would go to education the other half to worksite. When at education you got to work alongside a teacher and teach kids english. You even had the chance to play soccer with them after. If you went to the worksite you would either plant some vegetables, do some weeding, shovel dirt or water plants. All more fun than they sound. Then we would drive back to our hotel in the back of the truck, which was such a fun experience on its own. Once back we would grab our lunch around noon. After lunch we usually had some time to kill before the next shift. This time could be used for reading, chatting, playing cards or even swimming. Then we would head off to do worksite, education or maybe even a beach cleanup. We would work from 1;45-4;30 usually. When back at the hotel we wouldn't have dinner till 6 so that gave us more time to get to know our fellow volunteers and build stronger relationships. After dinner was served we would run to get some delicious ice cream a couple minutes away. I loved being able to try new flavors each day. Once we got back we would write our good vibes. These were just little messages to someone or something during the day that made you feel good and happy. Then we would go to the yoga deck for charla (discussion). Each day we would get to learn about new and important topics such as politics, sustainability, feminism and environment. After we would read out our good vibes and then be free for the night. Usually we had about three hours (curfew at 11) to play card games and board games with all our new friends. Then we would turn off our lights and go to sleep excited for the next day.
This is a basic overview, only few days were as constructed as this. You get to do so many amazing activities that its impossible to say it all in a day in the life. But imagine some days surfing, others salsa dancing, others cooking and even some rest morning. Every day was unique and amazing.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I honestly feared not getting along with the other volunteers. I was afraid our energies wouldn't match and I wouldn't make close friends. I overcome it the only way one could and that was by taking a chance and going. I told myself that even if we didn't get along I would still get to have traveled to a different country and experience a different culture. After the trip I realize that I met people who are exactly like me. Everyone that goes on a trip like this has similar molar views and often similar in other little things like music taste. I see now that my fear and anxiety was for nothing and Im leaving Nicaragua with amazing memories and best friends all over the world.
What did you learn from exploring with GIVE?
I learned so many lessons from my trip to Nicaragua with GIVE. First was how to be appreciative for what I have. People there appreciate every plate of food in front of them and I know in the past I have taken advantage of what I have, not anymore. I also learned so many lessons in sustainability with recycling, growing your own food and saving water. I learned about responsible travel and how one person can make a difference. I also learned that that I can do whatever I put my mind too. This trip was a dream of mine and I got to do it and it was the best experience of my life. So now I tell myself if I can do that dream what can I not do. The final lesson I learned and definitely the hardest one was how to say goodbye. I have never had such a hard goodbye before in my life. These people had become my family and I had to experience the feeling of not waking up to their faces every day. I hope I keep these friends for the rest of my life and that saying goodbye starts to get a little easier each time.