Our trip has been planned with some type of ¨giving back¨ spirit and, for most of the world travellers, this is achieved thru volunteer work. It´s also a win-win situation, where the local community can benefit from our free work and the volunteer will also save costs and have a much interactive local experience.
When I say save costs, I’m talking of the Free Volunteer Work, not the most common type found on the road where a volunteer actually pays to work on a given project. Typically, the payment covers the expenses the project has with the volunteer but sometimes it is an expensive price to pay, it’s almost as you pay to have an opportunity to do something.
It’s not that I agree or disagree with that type of volunteering, it’s a case of market demand, if they charge and there are people willing to pay, why not? Nevertheless, that’s not the type of volunteering that we would like to do, and, whenever possible, we will avoid it.
In Belize, we had an even more radical approach, what we call ¨Flash Volunteer¨: we just showed up and offered our services, and then accepted what Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary had for us. We did send our CVs beforehand so they knew about our skills, but that does not mean that they had something perfectly suited.
It was this way that, on our first day on Monkey Bay, we decided our roles for the next couple of weeks: Sara was going to work on the First Aid Project and I was going to work on the multiple Building Projects they had.
First Aid Project
Monkey Bay had scattered around the buildings a number of First Aid kits that needed to be organized, optimized and completed.
That meant checking all the available material in each kit, create a stocking list, check for expiry dates , create specific checklists for the different kits and adapt them for the several uses: main buildings, outdoor activities or transports. Sara also had to adjust the available packages for the kits and reach a list of items to buy in order to complete them.
All the final four First Aid kits Sara completed had labelling, contents cards, to allow better tracking of the material use and expiry dates, and everything up to date.
It was a long, detailed work but Sara is a very meticulous and dedicated person and because time was on our side she could do it with great quality. Very proud of her.
In my case, the priority was to help finishing some construction happening on the complex to prepare for the next busy season. The biggest one was to finish a second floor dorm, but the other task was tough, to dig a trench all around the complex to install some new power cabling. I had no experience in construction other than watching it being done in my apartment, and even though it’s not rocket science, for the smallest task the knowledge and experience is crucial.
I started by painting the building and applying a product which I have no idea of the name to the joints of the wall. This would be fun if I did not had to do it on my knees, very close to the ceiling. After those days painting, my clothes were marked forever. We are light travellers so bringing clothes to heavy duty is just not possible. The only option we had was to wash them by hand, since there´s no washing machine available, which was an even harder job, resulting in blisters in Sara´s hands.
After finishing my task at the dorm, we moved to the trench and to a new tool: a shovel. Digging is not a big deal, the problem is the 35C and the 75% humidity levels outside, it’s a resilience test to anyone. By the time I was doing this task I was more integrated with the rest of the workers and we even managed to play a soccer game. I could almost say I had fun digging the trench around the complex. 🙂
New skill learned, but the week was over so it was time to pack and start visiting the country.