Alejandro talks about his experiences working on three projects as a Raleigh International volunteer. His first project, called WASH, involved improving the water system in San Jose de Paiwas in Nicaragua. His second project, a Youth Leadership Trek, challenged him to develop his teamwork, leadership, and orientation skills while trekking through the Guanacaste Trail in Costa Rica. His final project, Natural Resource Management, involved reforestation and preparing the forest for tourists in Horizontes Experimental Station, Costa Rica, to raise awareness about the impact of climate change.
Alejandros First Project – Project WASH in San Jose de Paiwas
His first project, WASH, was based in the community of San Jose de Paiwas in the Matagalpa region of Northern Nicaragua. He worked alongside other volunteers and community members to increase access to reliable, clean, and safe water.
‘We worked in San Jose de Paiwas for twenty days helping the community with their water system. We did jobs such as carrying rocks from the river to where the water filter would be. The water source was in bad shape, so the next group would replace all the water pipes to make it more reliable.
The Youth Leadership Trek in Costa Rica
Alejandro’s second project was Youth Leadership (trek), which aims to challenge and empower young volunteers to develop personally. Over 20 days, Alejandro trekked the Guanacaste Trail in Costa Rica, covering approximately 260km of breathtaking scenery while carrying all his kit.
‘For my second phase, I did a trek in Costa Rica – it was one of the best experiences I have ever had.
The Trek makes you realize how tough you can be and how many challenges you can overcome. On day one, we started walking uphill, and I remember thinking, ‘What am I doing here’ But, after that, we kept going, became an excellent team, and had so many unique experiences. You feel satisfied with yourself and realize you can do more than you think.
Trek encourages young volunteers to apply and cultivate their teamwork, leadership, and orientation skills, which they can then nurture and apply to the rest of their lives.
On the trek, Alejandro learned how to work with different personalities in a team and feels that this experience will help him work more efficiently in a company in the future.
‘Trek helped me realize that there will always be many different personalities in a group and that you must learn how to make the group work together despite this. You have to listen to everyone’s points of view and make them feel like they are part of a team. If I start working in a company or an organization when I go home, I think this will help me work more efficiently in a group.
Natural Resource Management
Alejandro’s final project was in Natural Resource Management. Raleigh works in Natural Resources, intending to protect the world’s biodiversity by working with park rangers to manage their natural resources better.
Alejandro’s NRM project was in Horizontes Experimental Station, which is a dry forest in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. As the dry forest is so endangered due to climate change, Raleigh volunteers have been working with researchers and park rangers to help with reforestation.
‘We worked with one of the researchers in Horizontes, Julian, who has been researching climate change in Horizontes for ten years. Soon, they will be putting roofs over the roots of the trees so that they can see how they will evolve and change without water. We also planted trees. We filled bags with soil and planted seeds from many trees – the park rangers will produce around 8,000 trees across Horizontes in the winter.
Julian told us that if climate change continues as it is now, in forty years, Horizontes won’t exist anymore, and it will just be a savannah. This is serious, this is happening in my country, so we need to start letting people know that this is real and this is happening now.
Preparing the Forest for Tourist Preparation
Raleigh volunteers have also been preparing the forest for tourists by building a campsite and trails to make it safer and more accessible. Alejandro explained that by making the forest more available to tourists, researchers and rangers could make more people aware of the detrimental impact of global warming on our environment.
‘We also worked with the rangers clearing parts of the campsite, building tables, and cleaning paths and trails for tourists. They are trying to attract more tourists to Horizontes so that more people will be aware of what they are doing and what is happening with climate change. They hope this will encourage people to make changes in their lives.
Raleigh is a unique experience that pushes volunteers out of their comfort zone to encourage them to develop personally and to learn about themselves. Alejandro knows that even the most minor action can significantly impact the future.
‘I’ve learned that you can always give more and push yourself. I’ve improved my skills and have learned how to work with different people.
I have also learned that we can always help and do something to improve this world for future generations, even if it’s something small. It doesn’t matter if you move a rock or plant a tiny seed in a bag. It will all have a butterfly effect and impact at some moment.
Summary of Experience
When Alejandro summarised his experience with Raleigh International, he said:
‘It’s an experience where you have a lot of ups and downs. You go through different difficulties and have to learn to adapt to different situations you’re not used to. I feel Raleigh helps you become a better person and allows you to go to places without Raleigh you’d never know about. It opens up your mind and your world to learn that there are many things you can do to help. Small items will make a significant change in the future. Raleigh enables you to plant a seed that will someday become a tree.
Interview and Words by Communications Officer: Lydia Giles
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