The Program the Changed my Life!

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Hi there fellow adventure seekers! My name is Kirsten Svitich. I am a 20 year old country girl from Alberta, Canada planning to attend Journalism school in the future. I am currently travelling the world to discover all the adventures it has to offer! After graduating high school, I had a desire to escape my small hometown and see the world, while making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than myself. I knew that I wanted to volunteer but I also knew that I couldn’t do it alone. So, I began my search to find the program that was right for me. After a lengthy, intensive search I found exactly what I was looking for. At 18 years old, in March of 2016, I joined the Childcare and Community Development program in Costa Rica with GVI. And it was the best decision I could have made!

How did I decide to join GVI? Well, like any millennial, I took to the internet to do my research. I found many comparable companies in terms of quality of programs. However, as a recent high school graduate my budget was not significantly high. When I came upon the GVI website I was immediately intrigued. “Is this too good to be true?”, I thought, as I read the descriptions of the programs and their corresponding fees. I continued reading reviews and watching testimonials from former GVI members and quickly realized that no, it was not too good to be true... it was a perfect fit! Yes, there were other volunteer companies that offered similar and less expensive programs, however Global Vision International is committed to abide by the UN’s sustainable development goals while working WITH the local communities in order to ensure that only the most important and effective help is provided. This was a very important factor to me as I wanted to ensure that I was working on a project that was directly beneficial to those who needed it most.

So now that I had found the organization for me, all I had left to do was the fun part; pick my program! Now you think that this would be easy. However with the possibility to go to so many countries all over the world the decision was not so simple! There were so many interesting and different programs that narrowing it down to just one took some time. I have always had a passion for working with kids so the childcare programs drew my attention. But with many other options such as marine conservation, construction or women’s empowerment, there is definitely something for everyone!

I eventually decided on Costa Rica as my destination. The program that you choose is purely a personal decision based on how comfortable you will be in certain situations. Costa Rica attracted me because of the remote location of the project and the simple way of life at the volunteer house as well as all the beautiful activities Costa Rica offers as a country. Again if this isn’t your thing, there are other programs that may be a better fit. One thing to keep in mind is that some of the placements will be offered in what are considered “developing countries”. So be prepared for a more simple way of life such as shared rooms, bunk beds, local food and no hot water. But don’t let this stop you! For me this was one of the best parts of my experience! To be able to let go of the material world and prioritize things differently really opened my mind. I loved everything about my accommodation in Quepos, Costa Rica including the staff!! From the very first moment I arrived I felt so comfortable and supported in whatever I needed!
The training I received was very informative and I felt that I was prepared to handle the project with professionalism. As a group, we would spend every Monday planning our week of activities for the children. Then Tuesday to Friday would be spent on the project site providing instruction to them, usually in the form of crafts or games. All of this was done under the supervision of GVI staff, so if we ever had any questions they were there to help! Seeing the smiling faces of the children each morning when I arrived at the project, and spending the day sharing with them the program we had developed gave me a real sense of purpose and accomplishment. Then the weekend was free to spend however I chose. This was a perfect way to explore the country and get closer to the other volunteers!

The people I met while volunteering became some of my closest friends that I still keep in touch with today. We had so much fun planning lessons for the project and exploring the area surrounding our new home on the weekends! There was a perfect mix of work and free time but no matter what we were doing we were always having a great time. I had some of the best moments of my life volunteering in Costa Rica and I made memories that I will cherish forever. So if you are thinking about volunteering with Global Vision International, do not hesitate. It changed my life and I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of their amazing team and help do my part to make the world a better place.

What would you improve about this program?
This program was amazing from start to finish. There is nothing I would want to change about it. But to be improved, I think that more community development programs could be implemented. Especially ones that involve members of the community themselves working alongside Global Vision staff and volunteers. I think that this would overall create a stronger relationship with the community and help them to achieve goals that are important to them.
Would you recommend this program?
Yes, I would
Year Completed