I can remember my first few weeks on my first project, Teach English in Quepos, CR, and I actually can’t believe that I’m the same person. I was nervous, quiet, self-conscious of my poor Spanish skills, and honestly wondering if I was ‘good’ enough to be where I was. I can’t remember exactly what it was, whether it was the children on project, my fellow volunteers, the GVI staff, the incredibly welcoming local community, or a combination of the lot, but one day I woke up and was exactly where I was supposed to be. I felt the most overwhelming sense of pride whenever one of my students would reiterate something I’d taught them in class. The things that I’d initially struggled with I turned into my strengths on the project: I was avidly creating lesson plans to cater to each of my class’s learning styles, eagerly waiting to get stuck into each new day on project, and the children were MORE than happy to help me with my Spanish skills. Throughout my time in Quepos, I watched all the children grow and develop their skills and personalities in such remarkable ways, and I was immensely humbled to be a small part of that. I left Costa Rica with a heavy heart as, given half a chance, I would have stayed on with the project for as long as I possibly could.
I spent the next 4 years daydreaming of my last trip, wondering how the children of El Cocal were, and imagining myself on Manuel Antonio beach with my fellow volunteers after a great day on project. So, when I saw a ‘GVI Alumni Trip’ email ping into my inbox, I jumped at the opportunity and the next thing I knew I was heading to the Teaching and Healthcare project in Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town. The project in Gordon’s Bay was, again, life changing for me. A personal highlight was being able to work with the project’s resident children: singing songs, providing basic healthcare and enjoying sensory activities throughout the day. For the alums, our time on the project ended much too soon, and in fact two of our alumni group have since returned to work on the project long term (something I am admittedly incredibly envious of). We spent our final day as an alumni group exploring the beautiful Cape Peninsula led by a tour guide who looked suspiciously like Chris Pratt with (much to his annoyance) most of this tour being set to the sound of 5 GVI alums belting out the Jurassic Park theme tune.
There is something incredible about contributing to these projects, something that sticks and, although I came back to my 9-5 life, I haven’t been able to shake the ever growing drive to do more. GVI offered me the opportunity to meet people I would never have otherwise met, go places I would never have even known about, and to be part of something significant and truly impactful. The team are always incredible, from the point you start thinking about joining a project, to the time you get home and join the GVI alumni community. I cannot wait to get out onto my next project and would highly encourage anyone currently thinking about volunteering abroad to have a chat with the guys at GVI – they’ll take awesome care of you!