Friday, 14 June 2013

Volunteering: The Experience of a Lifetime

(L-R) Thea, Alice and I at Alba's Farm
Photo by Maddie Dicks
Sadly, I've finished my amazing 10 weeks in Honduras; I had such an exciting, eye-opening and challenging time in this fascinating country. As a group we have seen and experienced so much more than any of us could have imagined.

We attended the opening of a new coffee factory, which meant that the local women’s cooperative COMUCAP could produce coffee for export independently, giving many women jobs and providing income for many families around Marcala. We helped out making aloe vera soap, we had the opportunity to experience the whole process from clearing the aloe vera field, cutting the leaves, extracting the precious gel from each leaf and preparing the soap mixture. It was so interesting to see how hard these women work for just one bar of soap!

Honduran Volunteer, Waleska, at the Children's Home
We worked in blazing heat on the farms high in the cloud forest, yet despite second-degree sunburn, ants in our pants and legs covered in insect bites we persevered! The women we worked with found our intolerance to the heat very amusing but a glass of freshly made lemonade was gratefully accepted.

Some of our most vivid memories are of the wildlife; we saw tarantulas, preying mantis’, tiny frogs and had a snake in the house! Things with no legs, things with many, many legs and birds with nests dangling from tree branches. We faced days without power, the race for a shower in the morning before the daily water cut-out and the dreaded walk to the shop to pick up huge, heavy bottles of drinking water. All the volunteers have realised how much we take for granted - at home we can drink water straight from the tap, if we did that in Honduras we’d expect 2 days sat on the toilet!

Aloe Vera Plant
Meeting the locals was one of the most rewarding parts of the whole 10 weeks, we made great friends with our fellow in-country volunteers, Waleska and Fany. We had football tournaments in town and spent a day at a local family’s house meeting women from around the community and sharing our own culture’s cooking. We cooked them chicken, roast potatoes and stuffing, a traditional English roast. And they loved it! It was such a lovely experience to share with the women and was great fun trying to cook in their huge wood-burning oven out in the garden. We were so privileged to have worked with these women and it was great to be able to show them our gratitude, despite the tough lives they live they always have a smile on their face and a hug for each one of us as we reluctantly leave.
Traditional Wood Burning Oven
Teaching in the school was a personal highlight for me, never have I done something so varied, every week we tried to come up with fun and interesting lessons for the kids: We taught English dressed as the Queen, built 2 volcanoes and 2 castles, made a very sticky mess with cornflake cakes, did the hokey-cokey and introduced Hondurans to cricket with a handmade cricket bat!

It was very hard to finally leave such a beautiful country, there is so much still to be done there, we didn’t have time to do it all! The more we look the more we can see to be done: the women are always grateful for help on their farms, the kids in the children’s home in La Paz are always so eager to play games with us, we can’t keep up! Honduras has been full of surprises and memories none of us will ever forget, I can’t imagine that I will ever drive through a thunderstorm on top of a mountain again, swim under a waterfall or make enough Victoria Sponge cake to feed 75 children!

One really important thing I have taken from this experience is to encourage more people to volunteer, there is so much to do in every developing country and such great experiences to be had. Honduras needs help from young people like us, the energy, enthusiasm and fun we bring to the project visibly lights up people’s faces. (And a little tip for future volunteers: Go to Nancy’s cafĂ© for the best coffee in Honduras, if not the world!) We made this short video to show why we chose to volunteer and the experiences we had:



1 comment:

  1. Just re-read this, it's so good! Makes me feel all nostalgic and as if it were a dream.

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