The volunteer program of Ubelong in Merida, Mexico was a gateway not only to make a difference to the society, but also to create world-class friendships.
I live in NYC and I am a CPA and a Level II CFA. Coming from a finance background and living in an illusion that I know it all, I realized that this program opened completely new doors that I was oblivious to.
I did not know any Spanish, a limitation that made me nervous about the program in the beginning. However, your first interaction is with the program officers in Mexico. Martina and Leo are absolutely endearing and they make you feel comfortable and safe since the inception of the program. The positive energy they exude brings the best in you.
The hostel ubelong arranged for the volunteers is very comfortable and through it, you meet some of the finest people; travelers and locals. The other volunteers in the program (Rachel, Lija, Lisa and Paige) became my pals immediately and the whole environment became a comfort zone that I had difficulty leaving.
The non-profit I worked for in Merida had a very professional staff. I was fortunate to work both on the field and in the office (as I have a finance background). I worked with Foster in the nursery who taught me not only the fieldwork but also a little Spanish. The highlight was the hip-hop music that played in the background while conducting arduous physical labor. In the office, I worked on preparing cost benefit analysis and helped brainstorm ideas to raise funds. Carolina, the office staff, is a very talented and intelligent girl, who helped me learn about the general fabric of Mexican economy.
Merida as a city is very safe and has a rustic appeal. People are very courteous and amiable, something I miss in NYC. Amidst all the hard work, I still found time to visit tourist spots around Merida. I would definitely recommend this program to everyone and also emphasize that Ubelong is a great channel to accomplish your social goals.