Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Concordia North South project in Kenya

Concordia North South project

Country and place: Ngumbulu, Kenya

Date: Summer 2007

Volunteer: Caroline Dudley

Writing a blog about my experience in Kenya has been no easy task. Having spent a month in Machakos, the Eastern region of Kenya, I have had so many amazing experiences that to pick a few key points is an extremely difficult thing to do. However, the fundamental point to convey is that, at the risk of sounding cheesy, choosing to volunteer in Kenya is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The work camp I was involved in set about repairing roads that had been damaged by water during the rainy season. Although this was the principle reason for being in the village of Ngumbulu it became increasingly apparent to me that the cultural exchange between myself, the international volunteer’s and the local community was worth just as much, if not more, than the physical work of repairing the road. Spending the afternoons on home visit or sitting round the camp fire after a hard days work, so many ideas, values and perspectives are exchanged which inevitably broaden your perspective. During my short time at Ngumbulu I, for example, learnt how to construct a fairly decent fire, sang local songs and pick up a little Kamba, the local dialect. In exchange I assisted in organising and orchestrating an English culture night, taught many a song to the local school children and swallowing my pride whenever I was laughed at playing volleyball (which was often).

Furthermore, being involved in a highly diverse group of international volunteers I was pleasantly surprised by how well we worked together as a team and how rewarding being a member of a team can be. All volunteers were involved in every aspect of domestic life whether it be cooking, collecting water or having the sometimes unappealing task of cleaning the toilets. Such responsibilities were conducted in accordance with local practices which allowed me to gain ever increasing respect for the local culture as well as an appreciation for what I have in my own life.

After spending a month in Kenya it is my belief that international volunteering can be a great way to immerse yourself in a culture, give something to community and learn a great deal about yourself and the world around you. It is an experience that I will not forget in a hurry and one, which even on my return, demands that I question and broaden my ideas and perspectives.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Janica Dennison's International volunteer project in Italy

Concordia short term international volunteer project in:

Milazzo on the island of Sicily in Italy

Project code: LEG34

Dates: 09/07-22/07/2007

Volunteer: Janica Dennison

Two weeks of building platforms and I think I could now start my own business, (if there is a market for beach platforms in the UK that is). Although I automatically think of platforms when I think of the work camp I just completed in Milazzo, Sicily, that is not all that camp was. What Legambiente, (the Italian environmental organisation) also shared with all us volunteers was a strong sense of community and gratitude towards us international volunteers for helping keep their environment safer and cleaner for everyone to use. We even had a few articles in local newspapers about what we were there for and of course the local mayor (who in Milazzo was rather dashing in his light weight denim) even came down to our work site to thank us.

However, as anyone who has been on a work camp will say, the work is only half the experience, as for me it was living within a tight knit community twenty-four seven with seven other volunteers, who every night also got bitten extensively by mosquitoes, that made my trip. Visiting an old military base, which was a perfect view of the sea between Sicily and Italy, or hiking up 400 metres above sea level during midday sun to see the most amazing crater on the Aeolian island of Vulcano, are memories shared with new friends I won’t soon forget. Although at times the scorching 45 degrees and 98% humidity left me wishing for a little British rain, once back in the UK you realise how amazing that heat swirled up with volunteers, laughter and a little hard work aid to restore a positive outlook on life (cheesy I know but true). The way I saw Sicily was a way a solo traveller would not have seen it.

Janica went on a Standard Project with Concordia www.concordia-iye.org.uk

Janica and the other international volunteers in Sicily

Click here for a country profile of Italy