Rosanna (Gap year volunteer)

Rosanna Preston, aged 18, from York, volunteered in Costa Rica and Nicaragua on a Raleigh Expedition during her gap year in early 2018. Rosanna wanted to take a gap year to travel and push herself out of her comfort zone before going back to study. After returning to the UK she will start an undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh.

Why she volunteered with Raleigh

“I chose to volunteer with Raleigh because I really wanted to do something different. I wanted to do something that would enable me to help people. If you’re having a gap year, why not use some of your time to help contribute to sustainable development?

“My main trigger to apply for Raleigh was my cousin who did this exact same Expedition three years ago – she sold it to me, so I applied. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone. Going travelling is a lot easier because you can book your own accommodation, you can make sure everything is to your preference. Whereas here, you can’t. I wanted to do something I’d never done before, to see what I’m capable of. When I read the Raleigh website, that was exactly what it was showcasing.”

Work and impact

Rosanna volunteered with Raleigh International in the remote, rural village of Valle de Casas. She lived with a host family on her Expedition. She worked as part of an international team of young people on a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project, which includes infrastructure and behaviour change elements.

“My WASH project was in a community called Valle de Casas. It’s a beautiful, untouched community on a hill in the middle of nowhere. All the houses were quite far apart, separated by fruit trees and they had the most incredible views over the valley – it was genuinely one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to.

“The purpose of us being in Valle de Casas was to improve their water access. They already had a tap in each house, but many of these were faulty, and the water wasn’t clean. So, we were there to help them improve their water source by building dams and clearing out their water system from the source (over an hour walk from the community).

“When we’d go up to the construction site, there were usually around four volunteers along with all the men from the village – around thirty men would go up with us – it was amazing. They were all volunteers, they weren’t paid for it, they just did it because it’s part of their community and they wanted to help.

“There was also the educational, theoretical side to the project where we taught the community members about the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene, how to maintain the system and the importance of water conservation.”

“All the families were so welcoming, they made me feel like a part of the family – it was so nice to be so accepted by them. I think living with a host family was great for learning about the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan culture. I learnt so much about their ways of life and adapted very fast’.

Personal development and skills learnt

“I did seven weeks with Raleigh, it’s a shame as I would have liked to have done 10 weeks. On my first project, I was getting so into it. In the first few days I was already having one of the most exciting times of my life.

“On the adventure trek, I have developed my leadership skills, challenged myself and learnt how to deal with difficult situations. For me, I knew mentally I’d be able to do it as I’m quite relaxed. However, physically I’ve achieved a lot. I’m not naturally fit or sporty but I managed to keep up with everyone. developed my fitness and have also become a better leader.

“I’ve learnt a lot about other people. I’ve learnt that so many different people can be from different backgrounds in a group but, we’re all fundamentally very similar. Anyone can make friends with anyone – it’s just important to reach out and don’t stay in your own circle because there’s people out there that you can learn a lot from. I’m sure this will help me in work or at uni.”

Advice for others considering volunteering on their gap year

“If you’re having a gap year, why not use some of your time to help contribute to sustainable development?”

“Raleigh has been a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has obviously had its difficulties, but it has been insane. The opportunities Raleigh offers and the people you meet make it 100% worth doing, even if it’s only for a short amount of time.

“I can’t wait to tell people about it. I think young people have a huge part to play in sustainable development because they’re the future generation. They are the ones who really care as it’s their world and they’re going to be living in for a while. If the younger generation are clued up on issues, they can educate other generations – we’re the ones that can make a difference because we’re active.”

Follow in Rosanna’s footsteps and volunteer on a Raleigh Expedition

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