Places I Plan to Volunteer
I’m approaching this adventure from a point of view slightly different than a typical tourist. Instead of looking for hotels, restaurants, and major tourist attractions, I’m trying to figure out interesting places that I can volunteer & document, as well as places to stop & work for a short while if I need to ear some more gas money. With a camper to live & cook in, lodging & food is already taken care of. Granted, I will probably book a room in an inexpensive motel from time to time, in order to get a proper hot shower, do laundry, and re-organize & re-pack everything in the truck. And there’s no way I would pass up on delicious street tacos & other affordable local cuisine along the way. If I encounter any tourist attractions along the way that are worth checking out, I will do just that. But I won’t be going far out of the way for them, nor will they necessarily be a goal.
A very rough outline of my proposed route south. Subject to nearly infinite changes!
Primarily, I would like to check out places in Latin America that we’ve featured in the Conservation Postcard column in Overland Journal. Closest to home is Rancho Aribabi in northern Sonora, Mexico. Unfortunately, I’ve had trouble getting a response to my many offers over the past several months to volunteer. Perhaps they just don’t need any help at this time. A little disappointing that they haven’t responded to me, but a good lesson for me in volunteering: just because I’m offering to help doesn’t mean they need to accept it.
In addition to sites that I’ve researched ahead of time, I hope to find local artisans & regional industries to document. This could vary from woodworkers, fishermen, tequila distilleries, farmers, ranchers, vineyards, or leatherworkers. There are a few clothing companies with operations in Latin America that I plan on checking out. I’ve also got an opportunity to help distribute water filters for humanitarian aide in some remote locations.
About 7 years ago, I volunteered to help do some construction & renovation at a school in a small town in Costa Rica. A few of us also backpacked in to a village of an indigenous tribe (Bribri) to donate some gardening tools. It would be great to stop by there to see how things are going. And I recently contacted the organization, which is still involved in the community there. They told me there would be plenty of opportunities to help out when I arrive.
Earlier this year, I met a gentleman from El Salvador selling coffee at the farmer’s market in Prescott. He invited me to stop by his plantation as I was driving south. It’s these types of connections that I’m excited about making, especially while I’m on the road next year. I have always met interesting people throughout my travels, but rarely have had the time to follow up on those contacts. I have a friend who works at a vineyard in Mendoza. So I have an invitation to stop by there when I make it to this famous wine-producing region in Argentina.
I’ve been in contact with the folks at the Muskoka Foundation, and am looking forward to helping out with some of their humanitarian efforts in Latin America. They have a great network of volunteers around the globe working on a variety of interesting projects.
With my ultimate destination being the Patagonia, I already have some volunteer plans for a place in that region. I’ve been in contact with Conservación Patagónica regarding volunteering with them in late 2012/early 2013. They have worked to build national parks in both the Argentine & Chilean Patagonia. Currently their main project is in southern Chile, in Valle Chacabuco. That park has been referred to as the Yellowstone of South America. I can’t wait to lend a hand in helping to preserve this beautiful place for generations to come.