Volunteers Reflect on Best Moments Abroad
The most valuable souvenir you can bring home is a story. Today we are sharing stories and summer highlights from volunteers at three incredible organizations we partner with: Animal Experience International, Child Family Health International and World Endeavors.
Animal Experience International
This summer we welcomed our 500th client home safely and with that have our 500th story of life changing volunteering. But what do our clients do when they are away? With more than 26 programs, that’s a big question. We thought we would update you on three volunteer adventures on three different continents!
Our volunteers came out in force this year, we had more than a dozen volunteers play the role of citizen scientists on the Mongolian steppe. Sleeping in yurts and drinking horse milk our volunteers helped monitor the behaviour of the last wild horses on the planet. They worked directly with the Mongolian scientists who are using all the data collected to define and redefine conservation plans for these horses and the National Park they live in. As we pull out our scarves and make our pumpkin spice lattes, these scientists are clearing snow off their yurts! This summer went by quickly in Mongolia and the camera traps that our volunteers donated this year are showing winter coats on everyone from volunteers to gerbils to wild horses!
Did you know there are dolphins in Croatia? In the heart of Istra, across the sea from Venice our volunteers spent the summer counting those dolphins. This year welcomed the first paper ever published about these interesting and intelligent creatures – the data was from, you guessed it volunteers! Before our volunteers our partner didn’t have enough data to publish or even present conservation methods for dolphins in the Aegean Sea. Along with helping collect data our volunteers have been integral in Istra Dolphin Days; small conservation and education based festivals that help locals and tourists understand how to co-exist with these incredible creatures. Our volunteers this summer got to boat down the coast of Game of Thrones while eating gelato and being dolphin heroes. What a postcard home!
From Europe to the land down under! Our volunteers in Australia kept the wildlife safe and warm in the Southern Hemisphere Winter! Our wildlife rehabilitation centre hosts one international volunteer a month for immersion based volunteering. The volunteers live in a cabin at the centre and spend a month taking care of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. From bilbies to cockatiels our volunteers help with the feeding, cleaning and enrichment tasks at the centre. That means lots of hands on work for those volunteers who don’t mind getting dirty! We had three students this summer do a biology placement at the centre to get more clinical experience and understand life out of the textbooks. While every day is a learning opportunity at the centre who doesn’t like it when the school of life sends you wild kangaroos in your backyard?
More About AEI:
Animal Experience International is a Benefit Corporation with a mission to help animals around the globe by matching clients with ethical, community-based organizations.
Child Family Health International
“In nursing school, we discussed often the importance communicating on the same level as our patients. While we are educated in medical terminology, many people are not. As nurses, it is our focus to translate the medical language and apply it to our patients’ world. Puerto made this layer an important challenge for me. My Spanish skills were put to the test as I did my best to understand the common language of the people and the medical language of the health care practitioners. My Spanish going into the trip was purely conversational at best. My first weeks in Puerto I was able to physically see the affects of the disease or trauma on the patient, but later I became much better at listening to how the ailment affected the patient personally. CFHI offered us medical Spanish classes in the afternoons, which helped us piece together some of the issues we saw in the clinic or hospital earlier that day. I definitely saw an improvement in my Spanish-speaking skills by the end of the trip.
To this day, I still dream of the food that I ate and the beaches I ventured. Additionally, my time in Puerto ensured how I much loved taking care of different populations. It was a challenge taking care of people with a different language than myself. As a nurse today, I am constantly humbled by what I have to learn from others, and I am so happy my time in Puerto helped open me up to what the world can teach us.”
-Excerpt from Magdalene, summer trip to Puerto Escondido
“When I stepped off the plane as a Global Medical Volunteer, I realized I might never look at healthcare or cultural differences the same way. During my first week as a volunteer, I met a young woman who was a patient at Cape Coast Hospital in Ghana. She had a tumor obstructing her airway, along with a case of pneumonia. With each labored breath, I could hear her struggle alone in her room. Concerned by her state, I went to check her vitals. As I unwrapped the blood pressure cuff, she reached up and grabbed my hand. I squeezed her hand in return to let her know I was there. She looked up at me, surprised, and a small smile crept across her once distraught face. It was the first time I had seen her smile and was determined not to let it be it her last. When the doctors asked someone to check her vitals and nebulizer every hour, I readily volunteered. To lighten her spirits, I made smiley face balloons from the rubber gloves. When she passed away, my heart dropped. I realized, however, that her story did not end here; her hands would continue to work through me as I care for those around me. In those five weeks, I was not able to eradicate malaria or even suture a wound; however, I know the people of Ghana will be forever imprinted on me as I go forth into the medical field. I will carry the sense of community and compassion shown me, and use that to guide me as a future physician.”
-Excerpt from Kelly, summer trip to Ghana
More About CFHI:
Child Family Health International (CFHI) provides community-based Global Health Education Programs for students and institutions.
For 15 years, World Endeavors has been organizing unique, experiential volunteer, internship, study abroad, and customized group programs all around the world. From our office in Minneapolis, our team of seasoned travelers works closely with each participant to create an immersive and customizable experience in a variety of different fields.
We often place participants with host families and work in tandem with local in-country coordinators on sustainable projects. We partner with IVC in order to provide our participants with the best travel and medical insurance coverage during their adventures abroad.
This year, one of our most memorable interns was Samhita, who took part in an International Relations internship in Bangkok, Thailand. Samhita worked for a local NGO that provides services to the homeless population, child beggars, missing people, and hospitalized children. Samhita was able to visit prisons and hospitals, hand out food to the needy, and assist the Foundation in writing reports.
Samhita was also able to travel during her time in Thailand and joined her co-workers on a trip to the island of Ko Lan. Although only there briefly, Samhita says it was her favorite trip while abroad because she felt so included among the staff.
Once home, Samhita realized just how much she had experienced during her time in Thailand.
“While walking through the halls to my class, I suddenly wondered what my staff could be doing at that moment. Would they be busy with their field visits?” “There, in the beginning, it was difficult to adjust, but eventually, it soon felt like I was a part of the team, working. Regardless of the language difference, the bond slowly and eventually grew and in the end, it felt I was part of their work family”. Samhita fully immersed herself in the culture of Thailand and has left a lasting impression on the people she met during her experience.
Another participant of ours this summer was Jonas, who went to the small village of Esaase, Ghana to volunteer at a local orphanage. While he ran the soccer and P.E. program at the school for 3 months, he also was able to help the students with swim lessons and coach the local village soccer team! Above all, Jonas’s favorite experience was getting to know our local coordinator and his family, the children, and the other volunteers in Ghana. Jonas says: “I couldn’t have asked for a better place to do my volunteering! The people in the village and at my home have gone beyond to make me feel welcome. My time here could not have gone any better.”
More About World Endeavors:
With flexible, year round start dates, World Endeavors offers a myriad of different volunteer projects worldwide. For animal lovers, there is the opportunity to work with sea turtles in Costa Rica, penguins in Brazil, or lions and tigers in Thailand! Teaching opportunities are available in India, Tanzania, Guatemala, and countless other countries. There are also opportunities available in health care, women’s development and deaf education.