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Volunteer and Intern Abroad since 1997
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A Very Busy Summer

By Estefane Santiago-Lopez 1 year ago
Categories Yucatan

I came to Playa Del Carmen without any expectations. Looking back my main concern was keeping myself somewhat active during the summer. I remember it being April and freaking out about how vacant my summer could have turned out to be. Fortunately, I received two scholarships from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Each scholarship covered a 4-week NC Outward Bound School Course and my Social Science Internship with GVI at Playa del Carmen. Although, I was worried that I would be burnt out after the first program, which consisted of hiking, backpacking, whitewater canoeing, and rock climbing. I continued with my plans. I was certain the NCOBS Course would be life changing. Therefore, I intentionally scheduled my GVI Internship to start a day after the end of my NCOBS Course. I knew that if I stayed at home for the rest of my summer then I wouldn’t be able to retain all of the skills I learned at NCOBS. I did not want to fall back on the progress I had achieved through such physical and mental fortitude. As it turns out, I was right. I arrived to Cancun at 7pm. Right off the bat I met one of our Field Staff members and a volunteer. Both were interesting people and I felt quite at ease with them. We even kept up a good chat on the bus ride to Playa. This facilitated my transition into my new home for the next four weeks.

 steph2

I thought that being Mexican and a fluent Spanish speaker would help me prepare for my current endeavors. However, I was completely mistaken. The atmosphere in Playa is so much different from any other place in Mexico. The people are so welcoming and helpful to tourists it is amazing! I finally felt like my homeland had sprouted and had become inclusive of others who were not native to the land. I could speak freely in whichever language I chose to without fear of being thought more or less than. The children at the Ludoteca and the Invasores Summer School, Invasores is a region in Playa with low resources, the children there are so curious and always willing to learn new words in English. The children at Invasores stole my heart away. Each child was so gracious. I do not think they know what their presence did to all of the volunteers including me. I felt a strong connection with these kids because they were still so innocent, young, and (unknowingly) full of wisdom. They showed us the deep appreciation and urge to exploit any opportunities that came their way every minute we were with them. The week at Invasores was awe-inspiring. I have never seen so many kids excited to attend a summer school program. I loved how they kept asking me if they could bring school supplies to record lessons. They were so supportive of each other, sharing plates, cups, and skills with their peers. I felt so envious to see a tight-knit community like theirs forming from the youngest to the eldest.

 steph 4

Today, I feel so privileged. My heart is overwhelmed at all of the experiences I am able to keep. I definitely have much more than I initially bargained for and I cannot wait to fully reflect upon everything that I’ve done. I am honored to have worked with the GVI staff and volunteers. Each one of them showed me a new perspective I did not expect to reap from in less than two weeks. I am confident in saying that this experience has expanded all our personal growth zones as well as challenging us to do more than is needed for our own communities in our daily lives. This is definitely the place to be if you want an amazing volunteering opportunity with a side of awesome friends.