DJ digging at Cerco de Piedra

Expedition volunteer

DJ on his Expedition

DJ, from Bermuda, went on an Expedition to Nicaragua & Costa Rica in summer 2014.

“Raleigh was a truly life-changing journey, it changed my perspective on volunteering and I now want to continue to volunteer, helping and working with others. Working with the local community we improved access to the national park which will encourage eco-tourism and bring economic growth to the area in the long term. The community are going to continue working with rangers to protect the land, ensuring the project is sustainable.”

“Before volunteering with Raleigh I was a student at Bermuda College. I hadn’t been going to classes and I had failed three courses. I felt I wasn’t really doing anything with my life. I heard about Raleigh Bermuda, a society of Raleigh International that works to empower young Bermudians to set positive goals and take control of their lives. I wanted to give myself a second chance so I decided to apply.

DJ's team working on the trail
DJ’s team working on the trail

My team was based in La Cangreja National Park in Costa Rica. The plan was to improve the trails near one of the entrances which had been closed off. Due to this lack of access, the park had been suffering from a drop in tourism as well as a lack of interest from surrounding communities. Local eco-entrepreneurs (eco-emprendedores) wanted to reopen the entrance in order to encourage more visitors who could bring their custom to the restaurants and businesses in Mastatal, the village closest to this entrance. More tourism would also increase the funds which go towards the maintenance of the park, as well as creating more job opportunities for community members.

Working closely with the rangers, the eco-emprendedores, the local school and the community, we were involved with building steps and clearing trails. When we arrived, the trails were really slippery and it had been a long time since they had been maintained, so the work was difficult! After we had finished the first day’s work, it was already easier to walk on the trails, so we could see our hard work had paid off which was really satisfying. Alongside the eco-emprendedores, we worked to raise awareness about issues such as recycling and waste management. We also worked together with the local people in the surrounding areas, some of whom took a real interest in the national park and volunteered to help the rangers maintain the paths, which means the work will continue after Raleigh’s involvement in the area ends. With better paths, improved access to the national park will encourage eco-tourism and bring economic growth to the area in the long term.

The completed trail
The completed trail

During my Expedition, my team also took part in a trek in the Miraflor region of Nicaragua. Everyone was assigned roles such as day leader, navigator or motivator. It was challenging being day leader, as you have to work in collaboration with other people and make decisions to ensure that the day runs smoothly. On Day 5 we had to walk a kilometre up a very steep mountain. It was very hard to walk in the hot sun, and it was both mentally and physically challenging. I wanted to give up at times, and I had doubts that I would finish it, but I kept going and learnt to ignore the pain. I got to know the whole group really well, and we became very strong as a team. I learnt to work with people and improved my decision-making skills. I realised that I’m stronger and capable of much more than I initially thought. I won’t give up on things easily now.

Raleigh was a truly life-changing journey for me. I have changed a lot. There’s time for self-reflection to think about who you want to become. I’ve become much more open to other people and want to learn from their experiences too. As well as this, the experience has changed my perspective on volunteering. I want to continue helping people and to get more involved with Raleigh Bermuda and its alumni by sharing my experience as well as tutoring.

It’s brilliant to find out about how other people live and the similarities between us all. It’s important to take the opportunity to find out about other cultures because it might take you to new places. Wherever we’re from, we all know what we have to do to accomplish our goals. It just takes teamwork.”

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