We don't really have turtles where I live, so this was an amazing experience for me. I work in veterinary medicine at home and was in between jobs, and since I'd always wanted to volunteer abroad but couldn't b/c of my work schedule, this was the perfect time. Working with a different species that I never get to see and learning about them was such a joy for me, and working with any kind of wildlife and being able to get close to these animals is a privilege and an honor. I fell in love with the turtles, and I still think of them every day. I dreamed about turtles for days after I got home!
I was treated wonderfully during my volunteer time at the turtle center--I was made to feel included, like an important part of the organization. My personal needs were accommodated, and my work was appreciated and celebrated. Further, I was given the opportunity to do "real" work that made a visible difference to the animals--i.e., they didn't just stick me in a back room filing papers or something boring like that. I was handling turtles from the first day and was helping the animals in direct and meaningful ways. It was also a great opportunity to learn about the local area, about its ecosystem, and about the incredible work the turtle center is doing for the environment and the animals.
The people at AEI and the people at the turtle center were absolutely awesome to me from start to finish. They made me feel that my safety and comfort was important to them and that they wanted me to enjoy my experience. You need to be flexible about details; things at your destination may not be the way you were told to expect, and you may not know in advance what your housing and transportation situation will be and so forth, so you have to roll with that. But you can trust that they will be looking out for you and they'll make sure you are always safe and taken care of.
EVERYONE should volunteer at some point in his/her life. Beyond the direct impact it has on the souls that you help, it also expands your own heart and soul in a way that nothing else ever will. No matter what your skills are or what your personal situation is in life, there is always, always something you can do to make a difference to someone. I've been volunteering at home for many years, but traveling abroad alone to do it was a huge confidence builder and a big "reset" in my day-to-day life. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again!