Isobel, 19, is from Amsterdam in The Netherlands. She did a Raleigh Expedition in Costa Rica in 2021 as part of her year out after school.
I’m on a year out, having just graduated from school. I’ve never volunteered before, even though I’ve wanted to. Back home I was studying and working in a restaurant, so I didn’t have the time. Now, it’s my gap year, I thought: ‘Now is the time to do something for others’. I researched international volunteering on Raleigh’s website.
On Expedition, you have the opportunity to visit remote places, like the indigenous communities that, without Raleigh, you wouldn’t be able to experience.
You also get to help out with environmental projects in national parks and do a trek. I really liked the idea of trekking across the country, seeing the views, the towns, and the people along the way.
My first phase was in a school in an indigenous community at Sarkli. The work involved building an extension for the children’s dining room. We carried a lot of wood out of the mountains that had been cut by the local community, brought it down to the school, and started digging holes to build foundations.
As well as the construction work, we created a vegetable patch which will produce corn, cucumbers, and peppers. We learned traditional basket weaving and some of the local language, Cabécar. We also held Active Global Citizen sessions twice a week, where we discussed specific environmental issues.
My biggest challenge was right at the start when I arrived. Everything was really new and different. When I was put with my group, I didn’t know anyone. But when I started the project, I got to know the group, and they were all so lovely.
There are several Dutch people on this Raleigh cycle, but I found that I was the only Dutch person in my group so, at first, I really panicked. It was so scary because I was way out of my comfort zone. So, it was a challenge but, in the end, I was really happy because I overcame it on my own and because of that, I got way more out of it. I had such an amazing time and I really turned it around from what I expected.
The highlight of my Expedition so far is the action day we held at Sarkli for the whole community.
We organised activities such as face painting and we did drawings with the school students that showed the importance of clean water and conserving water by turning off the tap. It was really nice to see all the families and know that they were happy with our work.
My highlight on trek was the kindness of people. People are really welcoming and, if you stop somewhere for a break they give you fruit, or if you’re looking for a place to stay, people always want to help.
I’ve learned that I’m really resilient. I had a problem with my feet on trek, but I didn’t want to give up.
I think I lost some of my resilience in my gap year, and now I’ve rediscovered it through Raleigh and found that I really want to persevere and finish things, even when they are hard.
I would love to do more volunteering in the future when I have some time because I enjoy it so much If anyone is thinking about signing up for Expedition, I would say ‘just do it’.
Because it’s really out of your comfort zone and seems a big thing but in the end it’s so nice and a lot of fun, and there’s lots to learn.