Testimonial from

I met my husband in the jungle I am not Jane, nor my husband Tarzan, but I met my husband in Costa Rica as an intern on the GVI Jalova project. But that is rushing to the end of this story… My name is Sharon Kurz (nee Barton) and I am from Berkshire, United Kingdom. A long time ago now (or so it feels) I studied Law at Sheffield Hallam University and went on to become a Solicitor working in the legal teams of well-known consumer brands. For a few years I wanted to do something to support the conservation of nature and wildlife. I was a regular attendee at the annual Whale Fest gathering and on one occasion I met a person who was representing GVI volunteering projects. That discussion laid the seed for my decision to quit my full- time job and undertake an Internship at Jalova in Tortuguero National Park. I decided to do an internship because I wanted to make a difference and learn new skills and experiences for the future. Jalova certainly did that. What I liked about the project is the diversity of my experience. Not only supporting fundamental conservation efforts by collecting data on Jaguar predation of turtles, nesting information for 3 different species of marine turtle and numerous jungle surveys; I also made new friends, learned to lead other volunteers, learned new skills in observation and species identification, how to steer a canoe and to cook for 30 plus people. These are just some of the many things I experienced. Like most of the volunteers and fellow interns on day one, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect, but the staff soon put us at ease and built up a good atmosphere within our jungle setting. The first few weeks of Jalova life were all about getting to know each other, where the trails were, and of course the training needed to be an intern. Training was a mix of health and safety (including first aid and what to do in an emergency), record keeping, species identification, creating a presentation and preparing and participating in a specific test in conjunction with the STC (Sea Turtle Conservancy) on leading patrols at night to count marine turtle eggs for nesting females and apply tags when needed. The training gave me the confidence to ensure I was safe and knew how to look out for the staff and other volunteers. No two days at Jalova were the same which was part of the fun of the experience. As an example of a day in the life, we would get up early, bleary eyed and get some breakfast and ensure we had packed our bags ready for the survey ahead - as a minimum this would include sufficient water, binoculars, camera, field guide or notebook and sun hat. Then we would meet the patrol leader at the front gate following a briefing we would then head out for the survey. A boat survey would take us on a trail down to the water where we may see monkeys or snakes and then on a motorised boat head to the ranger station to pick up the boat and oars. This would involve all patrol members working together to get the boat in the water and all aboard. Paddling the waterways of the National Park was one of my favourite things. We could spot many birds, and possibly even monkeys in the canopy. Once we were even lucky enough to see a Tapir! Sometime around lunch we’d head back to camp and have a well-earned lunch. Depending on the time we may have some time for some data entry of the morning’s survey before getting kitted up for the afternoon survey or activity – again remembering cameras as you never knew what you may see! The afternoon survey could have been following a trail into the forest looking for Spider Monkeys and observing their behaviours and the trees they were in. After the afternoon survey it would be back to camp for dinner and then data entry for the surveys for that day. Evenings could then be a mixture of catching up with fellow volunteers to find out what they saw before showering and heading to bed ready for the next day. Having started as a volunteer for 3 months, I then took the next step as an intern to lead patrols and take other volunteers out on surveys. At first this was a bit daunting, however, we had excellent Sharon Kurz training before then on what to do, how to handle different situations, what to consider and think about (including plan A, plan B and plan C). The staff shadowed our first few patrols until we felt ready to lead on our own. Even then we knew we had the support of the other staff members if we needed it and a mentor to guide and support us through each week. My proudest moment at Jalova was when after my internship ended I was asked to stay on for a bit as a fellow staff member for a few months during the busy turtle nesting season. Despite the late and very dark nights of a night walk on the beach, I will never forget the exhilaration of spotting a nesting turtle and working within my patrol team to collect data and record it with the least amount of fuss and disturbance to the turtles. I learned a lot about myself in Jalova. It gave me the opportunity to take a step back from the ‘rat- race’, and truly consider my impact on the planet and to those around me. I try now and appreciate the smaller things in life as I know they truly are the best. I am thankful every day that I got to live for 11 months in a rainforest. The whole experience gave me the confidence to know I can put myself in different environments, I can lead when needed and be a team player. Above all, Jalova taught me that there are beautiful and wonderful places in the world and we can all do our bit to save them for the future. The biggest impact the project had on me is that I met Cyrille in Jalova. Cyrille was also an intern and we sat together on the first bus ride from San Jose to Tortuguero, helped each other with our intern presentations and studied together for our STC test. It wasn’t love at first sight (I thought he was about 10 years younger than me!), but I can’t imagine my life without him now and two years ago we got married. We have a few of our Jalova animal pictures in our apartment and often talk about the experience we had. My advice for anyone joining a GVI program is to go into it with an open mind, and you never know, it may change your life.

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