Hello everyone! My name is Dara Wilson and I am going to be volunteering this summer abroad in Latin America. Currently I am a junior at American University in the School of International Service majoring in International Development and minoring in Communications. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very affluent area and I obtained a stellar education from one of the richest county school systems in the United States. I live relatively close to the District of Columbia, so close that my mother works there as an elementary teacher for the District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system. As I grew older and began even volunteering at her school I realized the severity of the situation and how a struggling school system cannot properly educate lower and middle class children. My experiences as an aid are the foundation for my desire to work abroad.
I was first introduced to the idea of volunteering abroad during my freshman year of college when I participated in an Alternative Break program to Honduras. After my one week stay in Honduras I knew I wanted to return and work with the organization I was exposed to - and I did that following summer. Though last year I was not able to return to Honduras, I was able to travel about South America where I saw many of the issues that seem to be persistent in Latin American culture (poverty, lack to education, etc.). This summer I would like to return to the two organizations I was involved in for the past two summers and be a part of another organization to continue my non-scholastic research and increase my field experience of on-site based development work. These experiences will also make me a more competitive candidate for the Peace Corps, which I intend on joining immediately after my graduation in spring 2014.
Promoting Environmental Sustainability in the Amazon
First I will be in the Bolivian amazon at Comunidad Inti Wara Yassi (CIWY), a non-governmental organization working for the protection of animals and the environment. This organization is dedicated to environmental education and the care of sick, mistreated, and abandoned wildlife. CIWY also carries out environmental activism and educational roles, focusing on animal rights and conservation. Currently, there are three parks located in various parts of Bolivia; however due to space limitations and lack of volunteers, they are unable to accept all animals they are asked to recieve. As a volunteer I will be working in Jacj Cuisi, the smallest park of the three and the one in most need of development. Last year I volunteered for 5 weeks at Jacj Cuici; living conditions are very basic - there is no electricity and minimal running water. Some of the tasks I will have include daily care for animals, cleaning and building cages, and further developing the park for so that it may expand enough to accept more wildlife in need of help.
Developing Cultural Connections through Active Engagement
Second, I will be volunteering for Karikuy, an organization in Peru that allows travelers to visit and explore the country while developing their humanitarian program in Puno, Peru. Volunteers gather information on Peruvian culture in order to provide new content for their online travelers’ database and their program’s blog. This program offers a great opportunity for writers and social activists to polish their skills. As a volunteer I would gather information on Peruvian culture and contribute to Karikuy’s already expanding program. The central office is located in Lima, the capitol of Peru, so I would be exposed to many opportunities to broaden my cultural consciousness on Peru and spread my newfound knowledge via the online database and other communication mediums.
Empowering Youth through Education
After my stay in Peru I will then volunteer for another organization in Honduras, Organization for Youth Empowerment (OYE) Adalante. OYE is a community-based, youth-led organization that gives scholarships to at-risk Honduran youths who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and might otherwise be drawn to the path of crime, violence, drugs, and/or gang involvement. OYE's mission is to develop the leadership and capacity of these students. The organization's approach combines formal education, youth capacity building, and comunity engagement to develop individuals that can potentially make a difference in Honduras' troubled society. As Honduras' education system is privitized, many impoverished families are unable to pay to send their children to school (thus stripping them of their opportunity to improve their situations and their right to an education). OYE gives scholarships to intelligent and very deserving students who otherwise would not have the means to obtain an education. I was fortunate to work with OYE for a brief period over spring break two years ago and for a month that following summer. Two years ago I worked with OYE for a brief period over my spring break and again for one month the following summer. I was able to see the work this organization does with the children involved and the difference that it makes for the gifted youths in the program. As a volunteer I will engage in the many empowerment activities the organization leads. I will also be teaching English to the scholarship students; fluency in a second language can open doors in higher education and make them more competitive members of the global community.
All three of these organizations are supported by donations and international volunteers. Upon volunteering to CIWY each volunteer is asked to make a contribution to the park. This fee covers meals and lodging during the time of stay and maintenance of the park. The cost of my stay of 6 weeks will equal about $600 (USD). The cost of my stay at Karikuy will equal about $190, covering housing and smaller domestic travel expenses. The fee for working as a volunteer at OYE is $1000 (USD) per month. Hosting volunteers requires several costs on the part of OYE, including electricity, water, energy, overhead costs, and human resources. In addition to this, the majority of the fee is used for paying for the education of the scholarship recipients.
Volunteer fees exist to help offset the expenses of hosting a volunteer as well as further promote the organization’s cause. Neither fee includes flights, costs associated with visa renewals or exit fees, health insurance, or personal expenses. As this is the case, I am relying on the help of donations to get me to these destinations safely to do the work I am so interested in doing. Any additional money raised will be donated to OYE’s scholarship program.
If you are able to donate, even a little bit, I would greatly appreciate it! Thank you and good will to all!
For questions, email [email protected]
To learn more about the organizations you can clink on the links below: