A UBELONG Volunteer from Pennsylvania State University working at the conservation project in the Galapagos

“Making lasting friendships is the most important thing.”

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Name: Evan Gill
Age: 25
Hometown: Harleysville, Pennsylvania
Nationality: United States
University: The Pennsylvania State University
Degree: Mechanical Engineering
Occupation: Sales Engineer at Mack Trucks
Languages spoken: English and Spanish (beginner)
Past travel experience: Moderate
Volunteer Abroad: Forest Conservation and Sustainable Farming in the Galapagos, Ecuador
Duration: 2 weeks
Start month: November 2017
Claim to fame: Evan proved to be a dedicated UBELONG Volunteer. He always worked with passion and dedication, and he was known to always take the time to stop and help other volunteers. Evan is a wonderful person, and we are thrilled to have him in the UBELONG Volunteer family. Thank you Evan!

Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
I knew I was going to be traveling for leisure for about 3 months. I decided a good way to add to my traveling experience would be to find a way to give back to the community. While traveling can be extremely rewarding, I felt the need to spend time giving back. I ultimately stumbled across UBELONG while searching online for volunteering organizations. I knew I was going to be in South America, which UBELONG already had volunteer work setup in. I researched the company and found nothing but positive reviews and experiences from past volunteers. The application process was extremely straightforward, and it was a breeze to get started on the project. I am extremely happy with my decision to become a UBELONG volunteer.

What was your impact on your volunteer project?
There were a few different activities that we did while I was in the Galapagos for two weeks. One of them was clearing out the mora (blackberry bushes) and other invasive plants. This involves manually clearing an area with machetes. When you look around, it may seem daunting because there is so much of it, but I know that even the little bit that I cleared, is helping tremendously. If volunteers continue to go to the Galapagos, eventually we can really start to see the difference. Another project we worked on was building a gate. The gate is used to keep the neighbor’s livestock out of the reserve. It is important to keep the livestock out to help the indigenous plants continue to thrive,and not be trampled.

What were your major challenges?
I think one of the greatest challenges was adapting to a new way of life. I think the majority of people have set routines and wake up everyday and get caught doing the same things over and over. It truly is challenging to put yourself out of your normal routine by changing up your daily schedule. Waking up everyday and doing physical labor, removing invasive plants, planting new trees, building a new gate, can be tough, especially when you are used to a desk job in your daily life. Just because it was tough doesn’t mean that it wasn’t extremely rewarding though.

What is your favorite memory?
My favorite memory is not a singular moment, but the collection of time spent with all of the great people I met. Not just Cesar, Carlos, and Sonya that were running the reserve, but all of the other volunteers I met while working there. I am taking away friendships that I will have for the rest of my life. To me, making lasting friendships is the most important thing. It allows you to not only create memories in the short period of time that I was volunteering, but it also allows me the opportunity to make more memories in the future.

Though if I do have to pick one memory, it was when we took a break in the afternoon to go to the waterfall. We though there were going to be six of us and one dog going on the walk, but we were wrong. As soon as we started walking the four pigs followed us. They didn’t just follow us to the other side of the camp, they continued down the path towards the waterfall for about five minutes. It was quite funny seeing the long train of people and animals we had heading towards the waterfall.

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Related post:
Meet Pieter Fabry, a Imperial College London undergrad, who volunteered with UBELONG, at the conservation projects, in the Amazon, Ecuador.

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