If you are reading this and are soon to embark on a volunteer mission at Iracambi, congratulations, you have made a fabulous life decision. My husband and I volunteered for approximately one month at Iracambi in January 2019. We hail from New York City and although we are not city kids by any means, we had our reservations when first arriving at Iracambi. It is natural. We can assure you that whatever fears or hesitation you may be feeling will dissipate almost immediately after arrival at Iracambi’s stunning grounds and after meeting their friendly and welcoming full-time staff. Nestled away in the Atlantic Rainforest, the tranquility cannot be understated. The accommodations will be basic, but there is very little you need in life when surrounded by the beauty and diversity of nature. There is one main cabin and several surrounding chalets. Our suggestion would be to opt for the main cabin for lodging – it is where all the action is. After just a couple of days of working and exploring with your fellow volunteers and staff, you all start to feel like family. This includes the wonderful Thor himself, who is a playful & charming dog that becomes a frequent tag-along. It's also very safe, so your mother can rest assured.
Now, we will not lead you astray, this is hard work. But you get out of the experience what you put into it, so give it your all! Iracambi offers a wide array of activities and ways to contribute. I particularly enjoyed helping in the nursery with planting, identifying seedlings, weeding, watering, etc. My husband appreciated working in the nearby farm, cleaning up the area around recently planted trees and ensuring there was nothing encroaching on the potatoes and other crops. We both had a personal mission of completing the trail maintenance of this one specific trail near the main house. There is work to be done via educating local children and alternative work with medicinal plants. Iracambi is a treasure trove of opportunity, which you will quickly learn. We have not even touched upon the wealth of knowledge that the founders, Binka & Robin, have and what they will teach you about the history, current status, and future goals for the area you will be residing in. It is all truly inspirational. The staff and those frequenting Iracambi tend to be big activists and we encourage you to interact as much as possible in order to tap into a diverse set of knowledge that may not be so easily accessible back home.
While you may be beaten up after the first week you will likely come to two realizations. The first is that in order to naturally achieve progress, without the aid of machinery or pesticides, it is truly hard work. A newfound or heightened respect will be garnered for farmers and laborers out there worldwide. The second realization, or thought in this case, may be that you have labored so much and yet have seen little progress or achievement. On this second point, our advice is simply – just wait. We held similar notions, but towards the end of our commitment we paid a trip to the nursery and were able to transplant several of the new seeds, which had sprouted at this point, we had found in the forest on day one and planted shortly thereafter. This was magical. It was something visceral that we had created and it was going to help make the world a better place.
We loved the experience so much that we continue to keep in touch and be involved in the overall mission of the organization.