Name: Kimberly Young
Hometown: Concord, California
Nationality: United States
University: Sonoma State University
Degree: Business, Marketing
Occupation: Volunteer Coordinator for a charity in California
Languages spoken: English and Spanish (beginner)
Past travel experience: Avid
Volunteer Abroad: Forest Conservation in the Amazon, Ecuador
Duration: 4 weeks
Start month: July 2016
Claim to fame: Kimberly backpacked across Europe for two months which opened her eyes to different lifestyles, cultures and languages – this instilled a desire to experience more of the world.
Why did you decide to become a UBELONG Volunteer?
Prior to getting involved with UBELONG, I was in a transition period of my life. I was looking to make a career change and move to a new city, however I wasn’t sure what this would like and I wanted to spend some time thinking on it. A good friend of mine had served in Morocco and she encouraged me to apply for UBELONG. This seemed like just what I needed to clear my head and do some service, before I started in a new life, and an impactful experience.
What was your impact on your volunteer project?
I spent a month in the Amazon and I asked myself several times a day about the impact of my work. I joined other volunteers in several conservation projects. Often our days would be spent carrying sacks of heavy objects: rocks, cement, yucca, compost, and anything else that could be carried via sack. How do you quantify the value of carrying sacks of compost? Well I’m not sure you can, but the hours I spent doing this task gave the amazing local team the time to use their talents. I am not a biologist or researcher, but the work I did clearing trails and collecting materials helped to maintain the reservation, so that the true professionals could do their work. Plus, I got to work with a machete – which was pretty sweet!
What were your major challenges?
The first couple of days were a little rough. I had to get used to the 95% humidity and no internet connection. It was an adjustment and after my second day I had sore muscles, mud plastered to my clothes, and more bug bites than i could count. It took a lot of flexibility and patience to humble myself. Once I did that, I smiled more than I thought possible, I had made connections with the other volunteers and staff, and contributed to keeping the rain-forest beautiful and protected.
What is your favorite memory?
I have so many favorite memories and it is hard to pick just one. I think a moment that I will hold onto is when I finally climbed the 30-meter-high viewing tower… in the dark! On my first day, I hiked to the tower and after looking at it, I couldn’t get myself to climb it. Over my month of service, I hiked past the tower several times, and I never gained the confidence. Finally, on my last week, I was determined to climb the tower and I decided that I wanted to go early in the morning, because I knew tht I would have a spectacular sunrise. This meant I had to climb the tower in the dark, at 5:00 am. I was literally shaking climbing up the tower with just mt headlamp and harness to guide me. About 15 minutes later, I reached the top. I was speechless. With a 360 degree view of the rain-forest from above, I knew this was a special piece of the earth. I sat at the top of the tower and reflected over my past month. This moment summarized my month of service, finding an appreciation and joy for our amazing earth. In that moment, I realized that I had truly found the most kind-hearted community of people and experienced the beauty of the Amazon Rain-forest.