I'm off on my next big adventure. Those who know me well know that I'm always on the go in search of volunteer work and fundraising endeavours. I have done ample work with Big Brother's Big Sisters, Theraputic Riding Camps for children with disabilities, The Mustard Seed and numerous fundraising efforts with Alpha Omicron Pi Women's Fraternity. I also volunteered with Family and Children's Services. Most recently I have joined the Red Cross and the disaster relief team along with planning this trip to Ecuador.
So why Ecuador and who am I doing this with? Well as most of you know I graduated University a couple of years ago and have been debating on the next step. I have always had a passion for giving back and doing what I can do to help those whose voice has been somehow limited. I knew I wanted to persue a Master's Degree in International Development but I didn't know what area I wanted to explore. The program I am applying for is International Development with a combined focus on Ecological Sustainability. Thus, I have decided to get some hands on experience with conservation efforts.
In Ecuador I will be going to the Congal Biological Research Station. The Congal Biological Research Station was founded in 2000 in order to protect Ecuador's endangered coastal ecosystems. The Station features beach, estuarine, mangrove, wetlands, and wet tropical forest habitats, which account for the regions high biodiversity and local endemism. The purpose of the Station is to develop projects in the fields of conservation, organic and environmentally friendly aquaculture, farming and forestry. Here I will be staying at the volunteer house on the reserve. Just to let you all know there is no hot water but there is elecrticity.
At this station I will be involved in the following activities:
- Mangrove and tropical forest restoration: to restore former mangrove ecosystems so that these continue producing environmental and social benefits. This involves maintenance of planted trees, working in the nursery weeding and planting seedlings, and mapping of reforested areas. Be prepared to get muddy!
- Station Maintenance and Development: pasture weeding, repairing fences, path maintenance, barbed wire removal, basic construction.
- Biodiversity Inventories: focusing on key taxa, including vascular plants, birds, crustaceans, and fish.
- Sustainable Aquaculture Ponds: aquaculture ponds are managed organically without the use of antibiotics and chemicals. Volunteers will monitor ponds and be involved in oyster shell collection from beaches for oyster culture.
- Clean-ups and Recycling: areas of mangrove forest exposed to rapid currents often collect considerable human garbage, and volunteers will participate in weekly mangrove and beach clean-ups.
- Agroforestry Local Initiatives: Weekly fruit harvests in season including tagua nuts, toquilla palm leaves or bamboo; planting and maintenance of four hectares of organic cacao; Working in organic gardening and fruit orchards.
- Community Social Development: improving social conditions of poor surrounding communities, teaching English, at the child day care center, harvesting mangrove clams with women's groups, and in community mingas.
I will be participating in these efforts through the Global Volunteer Network. If you would like more information here is the website http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org.
Thank you for helping to make this life changing experience possible!