|Catherine was part of a volunteer programme in Costa Rica delivered by Raleigh International (ICS). The project took roughly 19 days to complete with the volunteers’ focuses respectively being community, trek and the environment.
The community section consisted of constructing a school in an indigenous community over the course of 10 weeks, and Catherine’s group started and finished the first classroom. The volunteers taught the school children English and Maths in lessons focusing on numbers, colours and foods. They also carried out an Action Day raising awareness on the importance of hand hygiene, afforestation (the process of planting trees, or sowing seeds, in a barren land devoid of any trees to create a forest) and waste management.
Research the volunteers done within the communities will progressively help future Raleigh Projects make sustainable changes, for example, improving job availability and education. The school highly appreciated the Action Days because they helped with aims such as better hygiene – the children now know how to wash their hands properly, reducing the likelihood of illnesses being spread and in turn, increasing their overall attendance to lessons.
The trek element of their project consisted of a 250km backpacking experience. Every day the volunteers woke up at around 3:30am, packed up their tents, had breakfast and set off for a 15km walk. Together they camped in community centres, churches or in the mountains. The main aim of the trek was to improve youth leadership and resilience.
Environmental, the final section of the project, involved staying in a national park and supporting the park rangers in their construction work. Monday to Saturday, the team were setting up new trails and building handrails around the park. When they were not scheduled for construction, they were planning an additional two Action Days, one in the nearby community and the other in the national park with the school children. Both Action Days had focus points based on climate change and what the human population can do to help reverse the impacts of actions that have damaged the environment.
As a result of the volunteers work in the national park, the trails are now more accessible so they are safer to explore for scientific research. The nearby community are also more aware of how the actions of humans are impacting the climate and what they can begin to do about it to counteract previous actions.
Catherine commented that: “Leadership was the biggest skill I gained from my Raleigh Expedition. In every phase I had the opportunity to lead a group of young people, be it for Action Days or guiding them on a challenging route on trek. Being a leader taught me how to communicate with other members of the team effectively, ensuring that all parts of a project were running smoothly and that everybody was carrying out their roles. The resilience that I gained from this expedition will always be remembered; walking 250km in 19 days on various types of terrain with a 25kg backpack is definitely my greatest achievement in life so far!”
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