“My GLA experience definitely provided even more spark to make this project something bigger, and to continue my volunteer efforts.”
“The most important thing I learned while on both these trips is that if you want to make a change, you can’t just wipe away or ignore the communities and cultures already existent in a place when you arrive. I also learned that simply because something is not what much of western civilization is accustomed to does not make it wrong.”
There’s something special about the mountains–maybe it’s the spectacular views, the gradual change in climate and terrain, or the sense of accomplishment upon reaching the peak. Last week was International Mountain Day. In homage to the mountains, we’ve compiled some of our best mountain photos from last summer’s excursions. Enjoy!
A quiet, cool morning waiting for the fog to clear on the Lares Trek in Peru (Peru: Service In The Sacred Valley™)
Hike a half-day into the rural mountains outside of Shaxi until you come to this hidden gem! A beautiful temple is carved into the hillside, just waiting to be explored. (China: Mandarin Service Adventure)
You’ve never seen mountains like this before! The Rainbow Mountain in Peru is a photographer’s paradise. (Peru: Service Through The Lens™)
Pastoral views from the route up Mt. Brison (Dominican Republic: Caribbean Service Adventure)
Snow-capped mountains, winter sunlight, hiking companions…aaaaah. The perfect day. (Peru: Service In The Sacred Valley™)
This is as mountain-y a it gets in Fiji–but the views are still A+! See the entire Yasawa island chain from the ridge, just a short hike from the Home Base. (Fiji: Children Of The South Pacific™)
Jamie Paradis, a high school senior from Maplewood, New Jersey, enrolled in GLA’s Costa Rica: Beachside Service Adventure program because she was excited to make a difference. Jamie also wanted to deepen her experience and opted to enroll as a GLA Fellow, an optional program through which students can expand upon their GLA program with a curriculum that both highlights and recognizes their achievements. For her Fellowship final project, Jamie submitted a collection of seven poems that were inspired by her experiences in Costa Rica. We’ve picked two of our favorites to showcase here.
“releasing baby turtles”
we heard the soft cracks early this morning
43 small lives
squirming in our
lime green bucket
it tips over, spilling
and not yet hard shells
the turtles instantly know
where to go
struggling to inch
across the gray sand
two don’t move,
frozen near our bucket
we cheer for them the most.
they each slowly
begin their lives
the waves help,
picking them up
when they’re close enough
bringing them closer,
but then throwing them
we see their small black heads
pop to the surface
before each new wave crashes
soon we can’t see any of them at all
except for the squiggly
I wonder how many
how many will grow
and lay their own
eggs filled with
begun with sandy journeys
It’s no secret that giving your time and energy in a sustainable, ethical way benefits the people/animals/group/cause you set out to help. The positives don’t end there, however! The act of performing service has a ripple effect, impacting the lives and outlooks of many–including the volunteer!
Volunteering can be a catalyst for….
Starting a Movement
Turns out, helping others is contagious! More than ever before, young people are giving their time to a cause, and it is catching. When your family and friends see you giving your time, they are more likely to be inspired to volunteer and join the movement. Many high schools have a chapter of Key Club International, Recycle Club, or other community service group. This is a great place to start and one of the best ways to connect with like-minded people in your community. (Besides, it’s more fun to volunteer together!)
Volunteering can be a great way to test the waters before committing to a college major or career path. You might love animals and consider studying veterinary medicine, but spend time at an animal shelter and realize that you actually enjoy the human interactions more. Spend three weeks in Tanzania and discover (or nourish) your interest in classroom teaching. Through dedicating your time and learning in a new environment, you’re giving back but also discovering your likes and dislikes and teasing out your strengths and passions. In fact, 80% of GLA alumni say that their service-learning experience influenced their future career or field of study.
Afraid you don’t have the right skills? You don’t have to be a professional to make a big impact! Most volunteer organizations have many types of opportunities, including entry-level physical projects and simple data entry.
Whether you give your time halfway across the world or just around the corner, putting yourself in a new environment and out of your normal day-to-day can have a huge impact on the way you see the world. You know the saying “change begins at the end of your comfort zone”? It’s true! Volunteering can be a great way to put yourself out there and come together in solidarity with people you may never get to interact with otherwise.
This is an added perk for those who bring their passions for community service abroad! Learn about customs, belief systems, and experiences that would otherwise be foreign to you as you connect through a shared objective–working in conjunction with the local community is the key to sustainable, ethical projects and successful cultural exchange. As you work and spend time in your host community, you’ll learn through experience–share a meal at the project site, meet with locals in the community, and learn to cook, dance, sing like the locals do. It is also an opportunity to share the things that you love about your culture with your hosts! Each new relationship, activity, and conversation adds another piece to the puzzle that is the complex, diverse world in which we live and is a key component of becoming a well-rounded, global citizen.