The past 4 weeks on the on Nosy Be, Madagascar have been absolutely enjoyable. The surroundings are beautiful and life on camp pretty chilled out. The walks in the forests to survey lemurs and unique Malagasy reptile has been particularly interesting. The dinners at the village 'restaurant' is a nice break from the daily rice and beans.
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I was absolutely certain I wanted to go to Africa again after volunteering with my school in Uganda in 2012, as I had such an amazing time. However, it proved hard to find a volunteering organization that allowed me to take part in a project with them at the age I was, 16. So, when I got in touch with OV and found out that I could volunteer with them at my age I was so excited! I signed up immediately and with help over the phone from a OV worker, we decided that Ghana would be the perfect destination for me.
Obviously, being only 16, I was eager to find a 'travel buddy' to fly with, unfortunately I didn't manage to, but Original Volunteers website is great as it provides a 'Travel Buddy' section where you can see who will be going to the same place at the same time as you, as well as their Facebook page which allowed me to get in contact with many people going at the same time as me and get to know them before I went.
I was also really nervous about traveling and flying on my own as I don't regularly use planes, but was reassured by Original Volunteers as I kept in contact with them right up until I left. They eased my nerves massively and promised me there would be someone waiting for me at Accra airport, which of course, there was a very friendly coordinator standing in the 'Arrivals' with a massive 'ORIGINAL VOLUNTEERS' sign!
My time there was incredible, I really loved it. It was the perfect balance of planned and already organized volunteering and time to our self. I did a mixture of teaching and painting which was really great. I loved spending so much time with the kids. In the evenings and on the weekends we were able to do whatever we wanted and the coordinator stayed with us the whole time which was great. In my two weeks there I went to Mole National Park which was amazing and Cape Coast!
I fell in love with the people and the culture there and had the best time. I was not ready to leave at all after two weeks and I am currently planning my next volunteering trip with OV.
So Thank You Original Volunteers for everything!!!
After many years of wanting to go to Africa, and complete a volunteering holiday, my 30th birthday seemed like the perfect time. I searched around on the Internet for programmes and destinations at a reasonable price and original volunteers came out on top , ticking all the boxes. I spent weeks planning and packing bits and pieces. The jabs, insurance and planning would all be worth it. I was going on my own, and whilst I had travelled abroad alone before, I was still a little nervous. I also didn't know whether there would be lots of volunteers around in the village or not. I was finally ready to go after repackaging my case several times!
I didn't sleep a wink on the flight as planned, I was too excited.
I landed and got through the visa queue in not too bad a time. I came through arrivals and eagerly glanced around for my name on a board. What I hadn't planned for, was 'Africa time' so after a little wander around, I again stood by the arrivals area. Shortly after, a tall gentleman in a red shúkà approached me, and introduced himself as Josphat. He explained I would be staying at his house, and he took my suitcases; one full of my things, and one full to the brim with school equipment. We got into the taxi which did look a bit worse for wear, but 'this is Africa' !
We made the journey through Nairobi, past 'piki piki' or motorbikes, piled high with goods and people and the occasional animal! Hoards of people walking to work and the billboards for big named brands, of which I'm sure the majority of people cannot afford. Out of the city and through muddy roads, past the occasional town and eventually out into the open. We stopped at the town for water and goodies, and I bought the family lots of ingredients for meals, I had some trinkets but the basics were just as important. Flour, sugar, fat and water. I bought my SIM card for the time I was out here and the chap in the kiosk set it all up for me. We were in Ngong which, if you've never been to anywhere like Africa, out in the real areas of a destination, with real people, it could be daunting at first. People shouting 'sopa' to me, which I had no idea what it meant, but is just a friendly hello ! Women with their incredible masaai jewellery and men busying about working and the swarms of piki pikis whizzing past!
We continued our drive over the hill and I was finally welcomed to 'Masaailand' the bumpiest dirt track you could imagine, bouncing around trying to catch a glimpse of wildlife around me. It was fairly flat around with the odd mountain in the background. I was shown where giraffes usually gather and eventually we turned towards the hills we had come over and began to climb up it. About half way up we saw some houses, a school, the community centre and it was just beautiful. Children wandered freely and goats were grazing. It was now about 930 in the morning and as we approached the last bit of the journey, we pulled up alongside a group of people. There were 5 volunteers and their masaai families off to work. They were all in through the windows of the taxi to shake hands and welcome me. I said I would come and find them in a bit after I had unpacked. We pulled up at a gate, it was the gate of the house. There was a large garden with animal houses all over, chickens and chicks running around and the family came out to greet me. I was overwhelmed. I soon realised it wasn't Swahili they spoke, it was Maa their own language although some of it was similar. It took a while to realise I wasn't going to get the hang of it quickly! But they didn't mind! They had been host to volunteers before, they knew I was grateful and understood the hellos and thank you's I was saying. I had bread and butter and chai (tea) before heading out to find the others. It was a 15 minute walk across the hills to work and it was incredibly hot. Remember the Africa time I mentioned? It means nothing happens when you expect it to, it's always takes longer than you expect, everything is further than you think and it doesn't matter what time it is! After seeing the hole the others had been digging, we went back for lunch. I was shattered having been up since the previous morning! Cabbage soup and pasta. Chappatis and chai for lunch. It looked plain but lots of it. How wrong I was, it was delicious and I ate more than I would at home. After insisting I had seconds, I was bursting! We had a party to go to at a nearby home (20 min walk) and about half way through I found myself swaying about falling asleep, so I went with another volunteer back to my house. I woke up to a house full of activity. They had waited to eat dinner until I had woken up. Every seat in the lounge was full, and a friendly Aussie guy who I'd spotted earlier was with us. He was in the room next door to me, and had been there about a week. We chatted as a family, played card games, drank chai and had so much fun. I was instantly part of the family. it was pitch black at night and the family only had one light. So they were pleased I had plenty. My first day was over and I felt fabulous! There was so much to learn and do, it already felt like 10 days wouldn't be enough for me!
Opening the door to such amazing views and incredible people around was sensational. I achieved some amazing work with the children, the community and I wouldn't hesitate about going back. Even with families. Children would be so safe in the village. Nairobi takes some getting used to and I spent a whole day travelling around on local transport which is quite an experience. I had a fantastic birthday and we had crisps and balloons and fizzy orange. This was he best birthday party I could have imagined. These amazing people have nothing. They don't want our lifestyle, they just need support to maintain their own way of living. Don't get me wrong, they are amazed by cameras, a few have cheap mobile phones and they love hand me down branded clothes and anything ou don't wish to take home, but they are true masaai used to their own way of doing things, and I have to say I thought many times while I was there how wonderful it was to not have he stress of rushing around in a car, going to work and paying bills! The grown what they need with the help from volunteers, they build community buildings with the help of volunteers. They are given a lot, but on the other hand, what they give us is priceless. Other things I did was to fund materials for a two cubicle toilet and I also took a trip to amboseli national park in my own safari van. I wanted to see Kilimanjaro as my father and grandfather had climbed it years ago so that was a must. A piki piki to ngong to top up on supplies isn't very much at all so easy to do.
I could go on with a day to day diary of what I got up to, but it's down to you to create your own adventure, as a new volunteer. Yes it's a bit costly to start with, but whilst you're there you hardly spend anything and just enjoy helping others and meeting new people. I have take away so many incredible memories and have friends for life. I was also given the name 'Namayiana' which means blessed one in masaai. And that is exactly how I feel. Blessed !
I still keep in contact with the village and volunteers I met there too. If I could, I would go back tomorrow!!
So sign up now for your own volunteer trip! Don't put it off for 'the right time' that time is now!
After working in a school in Mongolia, I decided that I wanted to do more overseas volunteering during the summer afterwards. Having looked at a variety of volunteering websites I finally settled on Original Volunteers. I chose to volunteer in a school in the state of Tamil Nadu in India, a place that I had always wanted to visit, this was perfect as it was a free volunteering placement. The conditions that we lived in were basic, a squat toilet, a shed to sleep in and a small kitchen. This however was to no surprise due to the fact that OV had been very clear with what we were letting ourselves into.
There were certain aspects of the volunteering that was wonderful, meeting new people, some of whom my companion and I would eventually travel with, it was also a great way to acclimatise in this crazy crazy country, such as using the local transport, honestly I wouldn't have probably used this in the rest of India without having used it here. It was a great confidence booster.
I look back and think that the teaching wasn't all about the volunteering experience, I learnt invaluable life experience, met wonderful people, and had just memorable experiences in a very, very loveable country.
I recommend this, especially as it was free...
Volunteering with Original Volunteers in Cambodia was a brilliant experience and definitely value for money. A friend and I did our two weeks when we were 18 and although we were the youngest out of all of the volunteers (only by about a year) we felt very welcomed and after the end of our time we were upset we couldn't stay for longer. The project coordinator was very friendly and along with the other volunteers eased us into the teaching, firstly placing us in classes as helpers and later on we led classes ourselves. The experience was incredibly rewarding and as well as insightful into the Cambodian culture. I have recommended original volunteers to friends who have then volunteered on different projects and have greatly enjoyed their time as well. I felt very secure and at ease, which is remarkable as it was my first time so far away from home without my family or a large group of friends. We were picked up from the airport by our project co-coordinator and trips were organised at the weekend for us to see different areas of the country with the other volunteers, we were very well looked after and had a great time. Hopefully in the future I will be able to go back to that project but I am also keen to branch out and try other volunteering opportunities in different countries organised by Original Volunteers.
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