Name: Michael Kasunic
Nationality: United States
University: Washington Jefferson College
Languages spoken: English
Past travel experience: Newbie
Volunteer Abroad: Forest conservation in the Amazon, Ecuador
Duration: 1 week
Start month: March 2013
Claim to fame: Michael was part of a team of students from Washington Jefferson College who took an alternative spring break to volunteer abroad with UBELONG in the Amazon!
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
The opportunity to become an UBELONG Volunteer was a chance to be both a teacher and a learner. By becoming a volunteer, I hoped to help people in need, which our group surely did. We cleared brush to make room for yucca gardens, planted trees within the Amazon rainforest, and wallowed in mud while making capybara mating grounds. These activities helped both the people of Ecuador and their environment. However, these activities helped me too by teaching me about the lifestyles of others and giving me an appreciation for what I have.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
While in Ecuador for a week, our group worked at a biological reserve. It was here where we worked with the locals in helping to preserve the beauty of the Amazon rainforest. We collected dead leaves and grinded them repeatedly to produce compost. We planted trees, dammed up a creek to make a pond for capybaras to mate, fixed fences, and built bridges. We even cleared a brushy area with machetes so a garden could be planted, and then helped to maintain existing gardens.
What is your favorite memory from your UBELONG volunteer experience?
One of my favorite memories was the evening we hiked to and climbed a 100-meter observation tower. This tower broke through the thick jungle canopy above and provided a beautiful view of the Amazon rainforest for miles in every direction. All you could see from the top of the tower was treetops and the skyline that was filled with the setting sun. The view was beautiful and watching the sun set behind the jungle was breath-taking as an appreciation of nature filled my body.
What did you take from your international volunteering experience?
This experience was a great opportunity to see and meet new people. It made me feel good to volunteer and give back, but it also made me learn a lot about myself. You get a deep appreciation for the earth and its beauty when in a remote location like the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador. You learn that you truly have everything you need to survive when you see others with so much less than you, yet they appear happy and friendly. This trip allowed me to learn about the culture of the people of Ecuador, become closer to those who were in my volunteer group, and realize how lucky I truly am.