I.C.Y campaign

The organisation I am volunteering with recently asked UK volunteers around the world to send in picture of their time abroad with a caption of what they have learnt from their volunteer experience. Here is the finished video (I am around minute 2.15 mark); there are some really inspirational quotes and I really wish I could do an ICYE year all over again!! Unfortunately I actually need to work when I go home next month… 😦

Enjoy! And be inspired! 😀 x

ICYE mid-term camp

Just a quick post to say the weekend was amazing in Lago de Yajoa for the ICYE camp… it was my mid-term camp, the final camp for the other international volunteers and the pre-departure camp for the nationals going to Europe this year. There was about 25 of us in all… in just two rooms, one for boys and one for girls… but it was a lot of fun. 

The weekend made me realise how extremely happy I am to be staying for another 6 months, the other volunteers are all excited to be going home which is really good, but for me I know I would definitely not be ready to go yet… so I’m really glad I decided to stay here longer. After the next two months or so travelling, I know I’m going to be really excited to get back and get a lot more stuck in with my project and Spanish, and spend lots of time with my amazing host family!! The weekend also meant lots of evaluating our experience so far and there is nothing I have regretted or wish I’d done differently, everything has just been amazing and I’m sooo glad I’m here. 

I also met some great new people at the camp from Honduras; two of them are going to the UK to volunteer next year so it was a lot of fun telling them all about home and getting them excited. Of course, me, Laura, Michelle and Loui gave an amazing performance of a Spice Girls classic to show what the UK is all about!!  I’m super sad that Laura and everyone are leaving me, it’s so good to meet new people who I can hopefully meet up with in September when I’m back.

Tomorrow Laura and me are finally heading off for some travelling… Laura has been freaking out all day that I hadn’t started packing yet, but it’s all done now. Hopefully I will get a little sleep before we set off for the coach at 4 in the morning… ! 

Also, go Murray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀 

Why volunteer abroad?

I’ve had a couple of people ask me recently how I find volunteering in Honduras and whether I’d recommend it… and Laura and I have debated a couple of times whether we would recommend ICYE (Inter-Cultural Youth Exchange programme). Well it’s complicated. I know that I have absolutely loved my experience here so far, and while I can be moody sometimes as Laura so loves to remind me, I am a pretty positive person. In fact, I think my time in Honduras has made me a better person in many ways already. I am more positive, carefree and, actually, more grown up. Shocker right?! I am still silly and childish most of the time, and it still takes me about 10 minutes longer than others to catch onto jokes… but I think I have actually found maturity somewhere in amongst all that. When people have done not so good things to me recently, I won’t name names, I have let it go really quickly and just moved on. I used to find it sooo difficult to forgive people quickly but now I just don’t see the point in harbouring bad feelings about things that don’t matter in the great scheme of things, especially when there were good intentions in there somewhere. Anyway, that wasn’t the point I was making (I guess I haven’t fixed my habit of waffling then) – I was going to make the point that I have been quite positive about my time in Honduras, while other volunteers have had a much more negative experience. So I don’t want to harp on about what am amazing time I’ve had, and potentially encourge someone reading this to volunteer, as obviously my point of view is going to be a lot different to someone like Maja, who left Honduras 4 months in as she felt too in danger here. But I will do my best to give some, relatively, unbiased pros and cons below…

Pros:

1. You will grown as a person. As I already waffled on about above, you will learn more about yourself (maybe, even ‘find yourself’!!) and hopefully improve. I know that Brynja, when she left, was so happy that she became a lot more independent from her time volunteering and discovered that she could look after herself more than she had imagined before.

2. You will help others. Let’s be honest, as much as you may want to, you aren’t going to change the world. Nothing close to that even. But you might just change the lives of a few people, even in the smallest way, and it will be worth it. It means a lot to people in Honduras, who need help, that someone has bothered to come all the way from Europe to try and give something. That they are at least being considered as needing help. We have so many TV adverts, campaigns etc. for Africa in the UK, but Central America gets largely ignored despite its many problems.

3. You will make life long friends – and a much more interesting diversity of friends. I have met the most amazing friends here that despite the distance when I go home, I know I will make a huge effort to keep in touch with. I already know I will definitely be coming back to Honduras, at least to visit, and part of the reason for that is I have made best friends here. It sucks that I won’t be able to see them much at all, but they are a huge part of my experience here and I’ve learnt so much more from having them

4. You will learn soooo much more than you would studying, or probably even working. I did a degree in geography for 3 years and a masters in human rights for one year – both at big financial cost. But I learnt more in one month here than I did during 4 years of studying. Volunteering abroad in a country like Honduras will literally shake you up and change everything you thought about the World – hopefully in a good way. Sometimes it is depressing yes, and frustrating that there is nothing you can do to really change it in a big way, but at least to me it seems really important to learn that however bad you have it on a bad day at work, or when your boyfriend dumps you… you could have it a whole lot worse.

5. You will be the envy of your friends. I can’t emphasise enough how nice it is to be enjoying myself in Honduras and go on facebook and see people back home complaining about the weather, their crappy job, the stupid politics. And you will recieve countless emails from your friends saying how jealous they are and what an amazing thing you are doing. Obviously that isn’t why I chose to come to Honduras, but when I’m having a crappy day, it’s definitely a good reminder of why I am here and why I definitely chose the right thing for me.

 Cons:

1. The cost. Despite what you expect, and what your parents etc. insist, it is damnnnn expensive. So many people expect that you’re volunteering your time, so it should be free right?! It’s not… nowhere near. The cost of just my volunteer fee was around £4,200 – I managed to raise about £1,500 through fundraising for my trip but to raise the rest I worked, sold my Pandora bracelet and my beloved car, Hugo. And then there is spending money – despite Honduras being so much cheaper than the UK, I have still managed to spend way more than I expected. Honduras is still affected by western culture – with it’s expensive malls, luxury bus companies and americanised tourist driven Islands – so it is easy to spend money quickly. So if you are going to volunteer, don’t expect that it will be cheap.

2. Cultural differences. This actually hasn’t affected me too much although the culture is definitely very different – but for me, one of the reasons I volunteered was to live somewhere completely different to the country I found so boring. But if you need home comforts and familiarity, then you could find it quite disorientating. And on those days where you just want to be home and everything be normal, the country you’re in isn’t going to understand that, and will most likely throw something your way to make you want to go home even more. But these days are rare thankfully…

3. It might not be what you were hoping for. My project was everything I wanted and I love it… but the same couldn’t be said for my host family. The situation ended up getting me so down, I had to change host family. Which I’m glad of now, but at the time I was so disappointed not to gel with the family I was orginally assigned to. I know other volunteers have been unhappy with their projects too so you have to be careful about what you are expecting and manage them so you won’t be disappointed if everything isn’t perfect.

4. You will be responsible for you’re family, especially your mum, worrying. All I can say is, try not to tell the whole truth… the scary bits can wait until you’re home, jsut so your mum can rest easy at night. The fact that your friend got mugged at gun point the other day isn’t going to make your parents sleep very well for a while… (Also, on the topic of home, you will miss out on things at home – your’s friends going out, their break up and make ups, maybe even weddings, births and funerals. I don’t think this should stop you going for it, but just be ready to deal with the jealousy, guilt etc…)

5. Ermmm… I can’t think of anything worthy of number 5. Maybe missing English chocolate? So I guess homesickness is a part of it… the food, the culture, the familiar things of home. But really, that would be a silly reason to not go volunteering. And, trust me, it makes you appreciate home a whole lot more which is a good thing.

And, ICYE in particular. There are obviously good and bad things which I won’t go into to much, as obviously this is all just from my own experience and I know others have better and worse opinions than me. Overall though, I would definitely recommend ICYE as an organisation to volunteer with – the staff are really friendly, they are (almost) always available to help and it is a great way to meet more people while volunteering as it is a huge network of volunteers.

So overall, I would say to anyone that volunteering abroad is worthwhile and the experience definitely outweights the expense, homesickness etc. You will never regret that you did – and really what is the alternative? Most likely sitting at a desk doing a job you’re not all that keen on and just waiting for the weekend all week. So my suggestion is… JUST DO IT!

Alternativas y Oportunidades

Wow, I have been so useless lately. I guess things in Honduras are just normal now – things that I see now, that would have shocked me 5 months ago, still surprise me but are a lot more regular. I seem to be busy a lot too and the evenings where I do go straight home from my project, I just want to relax and not try and think of interesting things to tell you all about! This post though is dedicated to my project, Alternativas y Oportunidades – my gran sent me a letter for my birthday and mentioned that I don’t talk about my project as much as I do my social life. Oops! I guess after the first few weeks it just became like work at home – and I definitely wouldn’t have written a blog about my job at the Purple Onion or CEVA. But Ive had a fun couple of weeks at my project so thought I would share some of that with you all now…

Mostly at my project I am involved with making presentations, doing research on various topics and helping with translating. So obviously this isn’t anything too exciting – well actually it’s quite depressing. I’m making a presentation at the moment on poverty – having lived in Honduras for 5 months I thought I had seen real poverty and knew what it meant for people to be poor, hungry and desperate. But actually, I think I don’t have a clue. Most of my time is spent in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and while there are a lot of desperate people here, I believe that poverty is worse in rural areas – due to the lack of jobs, health and education infrastructure etc. So I haven’t seen how bad it can be for people even in Honduras. And according to my research, Honduras is only the 15th most poverty stricken country in the World. 15th. That means that 14 countries suffer worse than Honduras does and more people are living in extreme poverty every day – I just cant imagine it. So it can be hard to research that kind of thing and feel like I’m doing so little.

But anyway, back to the more fun things. As I mentioned before, it was recently the 23rd anniversary of my project. We had a huge celebration – it turns out they celebrate like this every two years so the next one will be big at 25 years. But I don’t understand when they began this tradition, as surely they didn’t bypass the 20 year anniversary. Hmm. The celebration was great anyway, the first day was at the community of La Cuesta that the project helps. It is the only project to help the people there so they are very grateful and a lot of people spoke about their experiences with the project and how much they have been helped. There was cake too of course, two even!! And they were huge, always a good thing!

The next day the project did a presentation event at the library in the centro. It all felt quite like a school evening with all of us in dresses and suits and guests signing in; it was a lot of fun. There were more talks from participants, performances by the students and a play by the project. It was really nice to see so many people there celebrating the project and showing how much they appreicate the help they get.

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Last week, I helped mi tio, Hector, with his classes on ‘Learning to learn’; these were at a school in Comayaguela and at La Cuesta. Hector puts a lot of preparation into his classes but the kids just don’t seem all that interested to be honest. For example, I made some posters for the class and Hector would ask them to copy all of the information from them. Then at the end of the class, they would all give their paper and notes back – so they were all most likely going to forget everything they’d been taught. Especially in La Cuesta, as there is no appropriate space as a classroom so the students have to stand and listen, so there are far too many distractions around. I do love the younger children though, they find me quite fascinating and asking me questions about England all the time… and there is always a debate about Manchester City vs Man United. And I love being called ‘profesora’ 😀

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On Friday, I went to the graduation of Lurvin’s IT students – of course there was yet more cake. All the students clearly love Lurvin, I’ve been in the computer room when she is teaching and she’s really good at teaching and just really lovely. They were all thanking her a lot and they got certificates to show that they could use different applications etc. The wife of one of the men that works at the project had done the class also and they are one of the cutest couples ever. His wife, Vilma, is at the project a lot and always helps out, even though she doesn’t get paid and it was the cutest moment ever when she went up to get her certificate – Abraham was clapping and smiling so much, aww!

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 Lurvin and Vilma:Image

 I also went to the house of one of the women at my project last weekend which was really nice as some people from the project were there and the food was really typical Honduras and yummy. The area was quite dangerous though apparently and was clearly a poor area – Emma’s house was just 4 rooms and had a metal roof. It was the first time I’d been in a house with a metal roof and the first thing I thought was how noisy it must be when it rains hard! It was hard for me to see though as I absolutely love Emma, I call her my mum in my project, and she works so hard but has to live in such a poor, dangerous area. So many people I meet here deserve so much better than what they have.

So in case I disappear for a while again, I will definitely be disappearing from the 5th of July for a bit. We have the ICYE camp from the 5th until the 7th – which will be my mid-term evaluation and everyone elses pre-departure camp. It is so strange that everyone else is leaving and I’m staying. Apart from Laura, everyone else – Michelle, Max and Loui – will be leaving Honduras pretty much straight away. It seems so surreal that we are having the ICYE camp already and the time has gone so ridiculously quickly. I haven’t ended up spending much time with the other volunteers as we’ve all ended up with our own friends etc., but we would all see each other every now and then for a meal or night out and I’m going to miss them all. Especially Laura, but she is not leaving until August so I’m not going to get emotional over that just yet…

So what are me and Laura going to do until she leaves in August?? Well, travel of course! Technically I’m meant to use my time off at the end of my volunteering but then I would most likely have to go on my own and I’m pretty sure my mum wouldn’t let me. So instead me and Laura are going together straight after the ICYE camp to Guatemala, Mexico and Belize. We had been planning to go to South America but with our limited funds and time, it just didn’t make sense. So instead now we can take our time seeing more of Central America and Mexico and make the most of those lovely, heavenly beaches! My tan definitely needs topping up…

I will try to post before then and maybe a little while we’re travelling but we’ll see how organised I am…