Meetings, emails, local volunteering, samosa sales, baked goods, Skype calls, research, research, RESEARCH. What do all of these things have in common? They are all steps involved in the preparation of an international trip organized by Borderless World Volunteers.
This year I had the privilege of being a part of the environment international development committee. Our focus was to find a local grassroots NGO that was passionate about environmental protection and awareness. We began our search online and found quite a few interesting organizations around the world. Their missions varied widely from sea turtle monitoring in Honduras, to environmental education for children in Costa Rica, to animal rescue in Ecuador. We emailed each NGO in the hopes of sparking their interest towards our cause: to implement sustainable, development projects at a local level. As the responses came in, Skype calls were scheduled with the executives of the organizations, and our group had the opportunity to learn a little more about each one. The most interesting of them all was a nature reserve in the cloud forests of Costa Rica that had successfully reforested hectares of pasture land into what is now a lush, diverse paradise. The cloud forests are given this name because they are situated at high altitudes where the humidity levels reach almost 100%! This means that moisture condenses and immerses the reserve in dense clouds. Not only does the organization aim to reforest the area, but it also encourages the involvement of researchers from around the world. Research projects are conducted on the local flora and fauna, most of which involve bio-monitoring to determine which species exist in the reserve.
Before we could start brainstorming ideas for the organization, all volunteers had a lot fundraising and preparation to do. This included countless evenings baking for bake sales, tabling for samosas, and selling tickets for the Global Development Forum (GDF) and the International Food Festival (IFF), both of which were major successes. The team also participated in a new initiative, local volunteering around Montreal such as winter clothing and sandwich distributions. This gave BWV members the opportunity to practice getting out of our comfort zones—something we will all encounter on our trips abroad. As the months passed, and more cookies and samosas were sold than you could count, the international development committees continued their communication with several NGOs. As options began to narrow down, the teams began forming ideas for potential projects. Our environment team had many projects in mind for the nature reserve itself and for the locals in the area to maximize the number of beneficiaries. Our group is lucky in that we are comprised of members of different faculty backgrounds ranging from international development to management to environmental studies. With this, the possibilities of project ideas were endless! Using suggestions given by the program director of the reserve, the idea of implementing a medicinal plant garden came into fruition. Workers, volunteers and tourists alike would be able to use the products of this garden and perhaps sell them to visitors to create some sort of alternative income for the locals. Another idea would be to monitor what is edible for humans in the cloud forest to serve as useful information for future researchers.
At the time being, BWV is working to determine who is going on these trips and where. It is a nerve-racking time for all of us since the fundraising proceeds can only send a select few abroad. The selection is based upon attendance at meetings and overall participation. In the next few days, an interview process conducted by the executives will take place to finalize this decision. We also must partake in workshops to help familiarize ourselves with first aid skills and tips for travel. Volunteers are currently filling out applications as we speak and we are all very excited to reach the final stretches of a year’s worth of preparation.