Four Weeks that Changed my Life
Four weeks ago, I packed my bags up and headed to Gatwick Airport for my first ever solo trip. I’ve never really travelled before and this internship was a much anticipated opportunity to try something new. Having just finished my degree in Sociology and Social Sciences, I felt that this was the perfect opportunity to see if this was really what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, to test my accustomed personality traits and see if I really am as independent as I say I am.
This past month has been remarkable, I’d even be as bold to say that it has changed my life. I’ve seen life from a new perspective, put everything I thought I knew into a much bigger picture. From the culture I’ve seen, to the projects I’ve worked on and the people I’ve met, all of it, including the small bits has changed me.
When I came to the volunteer house, there was 12 of us, all of various ages and from all over the world with many conversations distinguishing the difference between underwear, pants, chips, crisps and jelly. Meeting so many different people is a lesson in itself!
In my first week here much of it was spent undertaking a lot of training and starting on my Spanish lessons. Personally I found my time at the Ludoteca has not been the best it could be because I do not speak much Spanish and have had a hard time picking up the language – made worse by my own fear of practicing with the children. However, saying this when it comes to Aqua Therapy on Saturdays I am in my element and the language barrier didn’t make a significant difference to what I could do. Aqua therapy is swimming with those with special needs. By the end of the first session I couldn’t stop smiling because it was remarkable to see the progress the person I was working with made. At the beginning he barely had any movement in his legs but by the end we had him swimming alone. I felt so proud of him and overwhelmed by the smile he had on his face by the end of the session.
The second and third week – The Invasores summer school project, was MIND BLOWING! This for me was the biggest highlight. GVI, along with our partners CoCos Animal Welfare, planned, organised and implemented a summer school project for children aged 6-12 years. Invasores is the name of the place; an area where those without a home go to live, it is federal land underneath electrical lines in the middle of a jungle. The government dump property waste here and it is from recycled materials out of the rubbish, that the families build their homes. Each home is built with remarkable skill, using sticks, old bricks and pieces of cloth, these people take care to make the best they can and this is where an astonishing number of children are then raised. With little resources, there is a lack of food, clothing and toys, very few of these children are in school. This is where we came in. As one of the interns along with a few of the other interns we were given a project (so mine was Movement) and we had to create workshops to run throughout the week. So my second week was spent planning the workshops, gathering resources and making sure everything was ready. My activities included, pato, pato, ganso (duck, duck, goose), football matches, a large art project and a relay race. Despite my language barrier it was the most amount of fun I’ve had in a long time! I made good pals with the children. I had several moments of profoundness which are the foundations to some fundamental personal changes.
When I stepped onto Invasores I felt sorry for these families. They have so little. But at the end of the first day we got all of the children lying on the floor with their eyes shut, imagining themselves as turtles and these children had the biggest smiles on their faces! They were so happy and throughout the week the appreciation from them and their parents became more and more obvious. They were so grateful for what we had done and clearly enjoyed all of the workshops which was such an amazing thing to see and experience. I loved every day spent there, by the end of the week I was sad to leave, the children were waving us off from their houses and I had another moment of sudden realization that they don’t get to escape their lives at the end of the day, or the end of the week. They remain and this is their life.
Initially I felt that I should go home and change how I live my life, I feel now that it’s less about no longer buying branded food. Rather I will donate to charities more, I will spend my time more wisely; volunteer where I can. I feel the most fundamental thing I’ve learnt though, is that ones level of happiness should never be based on ones possessions. I have a new found level of appreciation, not only for what I own but for who I have around me.
I’ve been on a personal journey, I have missed home, my boyfriend, my family and my friends so much. I didn’t realise how much we speak and how much my life was shaped by their presence. I’ve come to realise that I’d hate to live a life where they weren’t there and whilst I’ve had the most amazing 4 weeks, I am looking forward to heading home and seeing everyone.
I’ve been fortunate in my time here, I’ve seen some beautiful places! I’ve visited Akumal beach, snorkelling with Sea Turtles and Sting Rays. Tulum beach was gorgeous! I also visited Chichen Itza which is one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world! I’ve also swam in two cenotes. Every beach I’ve seen has been mind blowingly beautiful, I’ve enjoyed the shops, the food, and well, everything!
All in all, to conclude, the past 4 weeks have been amazingly life changing! If anyone is ever in doubt of doing anything remotely similar, do not hesitate. Do it! It’s an incredible experience, even for the culture alone, you’ll learn so much! – I’m certain I’ll be back again!
Thank you to all of the staff at GVI and all of the volunteers I’ve worked with, I’ll never forget any of you! You’re all amazing!
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