During the weekend of September 23-26, I went to a National Park for a volunteer project. The park is called “Parque Nacional Marino Ballena.” The volunteer project was organized by the Universidad Nacional under a group called UNAventura. We were a group of what I would guess was about a hundred students, maybe less, from three different campuses of the Universidad Nacional from around the country. Two other students from the IFSA-Butler program went as well. The trip included two work projects, a couple of presentations about sustainability and recycling, team-building activities, a boat tour, and random hours of free time.
All of us students stayed at an outdoor recreation center. The floor was concrete, but we were blessed to have foam mattress pads to sleep on. During our hours of free time most of us hung out in this area and chatted, slept, or played cards and other games. It was a great way for us exchange students to practice our Spanish meet other students. There was a field near the center too and occasionally there would be pick-up soccer games o other games. For the entire weekend a group of students prepared the meals for us—simple, but they were good too. Even though this group stayed at the center the whole weekend and didn’t participate in the actual work projects, they were still definitely a part of the group and their efforts were well appreciated.
Due to the large number of people we were subdivided into smaller groups and did mini projects; so what I did is not exactly an accurate representation of the entire volunteer trip. The first work project that I did was in one of the main stations of the park with cabins, showers, and a garden. My group raked leaves and cleaned the garden area near the beach for most of the day, while others repainted and cleaned up the cabin areas. The next day all the groups were assigned a specific beach to clean up. Picking up garbage is tedious work, no matter what, but the pouring rain definitely added to the tiresome work.
The boat tour was awesome. There was a dolphin that swam along the front part of our boat for almost five minutes, first one side, then the other, as if it knew that we were watching him. We didn’t see any whales unfortunately even though it is the right season for whale watching and supposedly the area is a well known whale watching area.
On the last day, right before we packed up and loaded up on the bus to head for home, there was a mini-presentation of certificates for all the participating students. On the certificate is the name of the student, the specific volunteer project, the number of hours completed, and the signatures of university staff. In addition to the certificate we got free UNAventura tee-shirts too!