Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Laura Meadocroft's volunteer project in the USA

In the picture: Laura and the other international volunteers.

The Hilton-Winn Farm, Maine, USA – July 2008

Three South Koreans, two Japanese, two French, one Swiss, one Swede and a Brit. Location: two weeks on a rural farm in Southern Maine, USA in July 2008. One rainy day in February I decided to sign up for a Concordia project, thinking that it would be a good way to spend time in the USA and help out in a local community. However, at that time I didn’t realise quite how much I would learn from this project, not only about the USA, but also about other global cultures and about myself.

The Hilton-Winn Farm Youth Enrichment Center is located in a beautiful area of Maine, near the towns of Ogunquit and Kennebunkport. The main goal of the farm is ‘to provide a country farm experience to enrich the hearts, minds and spirits of children’ and the restoration and maintenance of the farm is carried out by volunteers. The farm welcomes many school groups, including children from inner-city areas who may have very little, if any, experience of a rural environment. During the summer months, weekly activity projects also provide an opportunity for younger children to experience the farm during their summer vacation.

For myself and the other 9 volunteers our main tasks over the two weeks were to help maintain the farm and we completed a number of projects, including helping to build a chicken coop, clearing a large area of brush to enable building work to take place and general upkeep of the garden area. There was a strong sense of team spirit amongst the volunteers and a definite feeling of accomplishment as we worked together to finish projects. Aside from this we also joined in with some of the children’s activities which included going on hikes, picking wild fruit, arts and crafts activities and attending presentations by representatives from a local wildlife sanctuary. As someone who has lived largely in a city environment, I never thought I would be willing to touch snakes and turtles!

During the two weeks we were really made to feel at home at the farm and the kindness of the project leader Nancy and her friends and family helped to make our time so memorable. In addition to working we took part in various social activities in the evenings and at weekends. Highly competitive international games of football, volleyball and badminton took place on a regular basis, as well as camp fires and trips to the beach. In the second week there was also a Community Barbeque, which provided a great opportunity for volunteers to interact and socialise with members of the local community.

For me, one of the best things about taking part in this volunteering project was definitely the relationships that developed between the volunteers. Despite coming from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures everyone came together and was always willing to learn from one other. From learning how to count up to 10 in Swedish or how to make an origami dragon, to sampling a Korean omelette, the level of cultural exchange was fantastic.

When the two weeks were over, everyone was reluctant to part, but I know that we will all stay in touch. I think that the Hilton-Winn Farm is an amazing place for children to come and experience the natural environment. My time there made me realise the importance of taking time to learn about wildlife and our environment, especially in a world which is today so dominated by materialism and technology. I will definitely never forget the first two weeks that I spent in the USA and the people that I met here. To anyone considering taking part in a volunteering project abroad I would recommend it one hundred percent!

Laura Meadowcroft

More information on Concordia's overseas parnter in the USA here

Click here for pictures of projects in the USA

Click here for a country profile of the USA

1 comment:

Marsha said...

Well written article.