UBELONGer at the reserve in the Galapagos

“The importance of experiences like this cannot be measured.”

UBELONG

UBELONG Snapshot
Name: Hannah Dolan
Age: 26
Hometown: Janesville, Wisconsin
Nationality: United States
Languages spoken: English, Spanish (intermediate)
Occupation: Clinical Lab Scientist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Volunteer Abroad: Forest Conservation and Sustainable Farming in Galapagos, Ecuador
Duration: 1 week
Start month: May 2018

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I had always dreamed of going to the Galapagos, but I wanted to do more than just visit. I wanted to do something to benefit the beautiful place I had grown up reading about and learned about in science classes. When I found the opportunity to volunteer in the Galapagos with UBELONG I knew I couldn’t pass it up! The more I researched UBELONG as an organization and the nature reserve that I would be volunteering at, I found both to be incredible organizations!

When traveling abroad it sometimes can be difficult to find refutable organizations, which is what made me feel so great about the entire volunteering experience through UBELONG. It was also comforting to have someone in the states to correspond with about my volunteering abroad. It helped make the entire process even more enjoyable and take out any possible stressors! Choosing to volunteer in the Galapagos through UBELONG is a choice I’m extremely glad I made!

What impact did you make on your volunteer project?
Many organizations thrive off of volunteers like myself. The reserve does have employees but the bulk of their work is done on a volunteer basis. With that being said, I believe I made a positive impact on my volunteering project at the reserve. Daily, we had a wide variety of tasks ranging from cutting down mora to working in the nursery. Regardless of the task, I gave it all I could and did so with a positive attitude. In case you have never cut down mora, spoiler alert, it is tough work! The bush is tall, strong, and covered in thorns.  It takes a lot of effort to cut down these invasive species that are killing endemic plants and animals all over the Galapagos Islands.

Yet, even when I was exhausted and hot, I’d look around and realize I working alongside fellow volunteers who had quickly become my great friends. On top of that, we were doing all of this in the Galapagos Islands! The work was not always easy but the company and the views made it feel as though it was. Although we all can’t be there to continue our physical efforts, we wanted to continue to help the reserve so my fellow volunteers and I started fundraising once we got back to the states. We hope to help the reserve reach more of their conservation efforts on the islands with additional needs and supplies.

How did you grow personally during your volunteer trip?
During my volunteering trip, I grew in so many ways. It is hard to describe how just one week can have such a lasting impact on someone, but my experience did. I made friends there that I felt like I had known forever. It has been a month since my trip and I still talk too many of them daily. Additionally, I learned so much, and not just about nature conservation. I learned about the Galapagos culture, the people, the language, new plant species, new card games, new face and names.

Every single drop of knowledge I soaked in on that trip helped mold me into a better person and I am so thankful for this chance. I was pushed out of my comfort zone in the best ways possible and did things I didn’t think I could ever do. I grew more as a person in that one week than I have in a long time. As cliché as this is to say, this trip has changed my life forever.

In a sentence or less, how would you sum up your volunteer experience?
It is hard to sum up my entire volunteering experience in one sentence, but all I can say is the importance of experiences like this cannot be measured.

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Related post:
The impact of UBELONG Volunteers in the Galapagos.

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