Volunteering abroad has caused a change in me and, although I can’t describe it very easily, I feel it and the people close to me. If given the chance, I wouldn’t change a thing about my volunteering abroad experience, the good or the not-so-good. Learning to embrace the new with open arms is a vital part of growing as a person and global citizen. If you embrace change, you’ll be ready to face new challenges that come your way. I’m so grateful that I received this absolutely wonderful opportunity to visit such a beautiful country as Mexico that I otherwise may never have visited. This chance to connect with different people and learn a new language has been such an eye-opening journey.

 

When I arrived in La Ventanilla, a small village situated on a beach and lagoon on the Pacific coast, I was disconcerted at first to find an outdoor ecological toilet and showers. I’d used an outdoor toilet before but it had been many years since. It took a while to get used to, but in the end it didn’t matter. It was so hot that the cold shower water was a relief and after a few days I got used to the toilet being outdoors and that bats liked to hang out there. At first, small things like that and the heat seemed like big problems but, once I changed my perspective, they were inconsequential.

 

I enjoyed all the work; even just raking and especially working with the animals, such as measuring the baby crocodiles. Although it might seem like simple work, it isn’t the type of work that I would have otherwise done here in Ireland. I was able to see first hand what the community of Ventanilla were doing to take care of the island and lagoon. The island is diligently maintained and kept clean of rubbish – there are three sets of bins (recycling, metal, and general) to promote responsible waste management, and there is a compost pit at the two restaurants. The lagoon is currently still in recovery from two hurricanes in 1997.

 

Many trees and mangroves had been destroyed so one of the main projects on the island right now is reforestation. The baby mangroves are being nurtured on the island and in the area surrounding the lagoon sanctuary, and are then transferred from the lagoon to a swamp where there is space. In a further effort to conserve the sanctuary, motorised boats are not used in the lagoon. Working so closely with nature and being involved in reforestation and conservation efforts was a powerful motivator to bring stories of my experience back to Ireland.

 

This experience helps me to focus more on Sustainable Development Goal 15 (Life on Land) and to keep in mind what changes I can make to my own lifestyle for a better future. Re-evaluating my priorities helped ease my anxiety, which my family immediately noticed and commented on when we were talking on the way back from the airport. Many people like luxuries such as a fancy home or car, lots of clothes, etc. but these are wants instead of needs. If more people try to lead a more sustainable lifestyle it can help to reduce the environmental impact. I’m making small changes in my own life; instead of buying a physical copy of a book, I’ll get an e-book; I bought a quality water bottle which was a bit more expensive but which will last me a long time; I walk to work more often. Small changes like these add up and have a big impact.

 

About Author 
Name: Anastasia Saveljeva
Volunteer Sending Agency: EIL Intercultural Learning
Award: Silver
Global Goal: 15 - Life on Land