Testimonial from

GVI VOLUNTEERING EXPERIENCE -- COSTA RICA During the summer of 2018, I was fortunate enough to travel alone to Costa Rica to participate in a two-week wildlife and marine conservation under 18’s volunteering program with GVI. Alongside ten other people from different parts of the globe, we came together to form a team to fight against the heat, the thunderstorms, the language barriers and the constant fetid of dirty laundry, in an effort to support the future for Costa Rican biodiversity. The work that we assisted and observed on was carried out in order to help the preservation of the conservation of endangered species, but I also learned a lot about myself and where I would like to expand my skills as an environmentalist. My experience has had a positive impact on both my studies and my future, allowing me to grow and mature in accepting and dealing with the uncertain and changeable situations throughout new cultures and conditions, due to having been provided the fortunate opportunity to bring my own strengths and resources to the project. Volunteering enabled me to increase my confidence in meeting new people, being in unfamiliar surroundings and taking on new challenges whilst surrounded by an amazingly diverse rainforest. Meeting new people comes naturally, however, an experience like this was a great way to take me out of my comfort zone for enough time to appreciate everything around me and to grow from it. Whether it was exploring the jungle or observing a green turtle lay and protect its eggs, it was truly a rewarding and unforgettable experience. Also, there aren’t many opportunities like this, to meet new people from all around the world and learn about different cultures and life experiences of others my age, whilst coming together to contribute towards protecting the biodiversity of Costa Rica alongside local partners, facing difficulties together; something that in modern society is lost. We were provided a good balance between serious work and fun adventures, as we were taken on a trip further inland, for a weekend of white-water rafting, giving us opportunities to be involved in cultural and community activities, enabling myself to expand my personal teamwork and conversational skills. The daytime work was varied and often challenging. Our tasks over the course of the two weeks, ranged from recording the data of species we observed to visiting an indigenous school and witnessing their form of education and reflecting upon the fortitude of their characters. One thing which has stuck with me since this experience; alongside the mosquito bites, is the artistry of wildlife that is right in front of us, free for everyone to experience and admire. There was one day in which we spent the duration of the morning taking part in a beach clean in Jalova. In total we collected up to 229.5kg of rubbish off the sand. It pained me to see the ocean being polluted with plastic and glass from our carelessness and disrespect for the environment and witnessing its destructive impact on biodiversity has driven me to become more aware of the difficulties that marine life and wildlife face, causing me to believe that these localities are worth investing in and are worth protecting. It was spectacular seeing certain species like green turtles in their natural environment, at which the diversity of their life in Costa Rica is something you must experience to appreciate. Alongside all other countries around the world, the development of Costa Rica goes hand in hand with environmental degradation and it was eye opening and inspiring to see the work that organisations such as GVI complete, in an effort to conserve the growth of the country, so that many currently endangered species living in the jungle are protected and left safe, instead of only having a shadow of their prior beauty and productivity remaining. - Hannah Barlow

-