Words from our Volunteers
Cristina Falcione, USA
Sustainable Tourism, Monterey Institute of International Studies
In January of 2014, I volunteered with Misión Gaia as part of a group of graduate students to promote the sustainable development of tourism in Minca. Together, with Diana and two other students, I helped coordinate the logistics, planning and objectives for our field work. Our goal was to engage with the community about the growing tourism industry in the area and develop a plan on how to achieve more sustainable growth so that everyone benefits - the environment, the people and the tourists. My experience with the organization was great - Diana set up all of our accommodations and travel and made us feel very welcomed into the community. She prepared us well before we arrived as to manage our expectations and made sure we had everything we needed during our time there. I highly recommend volunteering with Misión Gaia - volunteers are VITAL to give continuity to the mission that is so important to preserving the beauty and heart of this community.
Bastian Piltz, Germany
Marine Microbiology, Universität Bremen
I joined Misión Gaia in January 2012 for a 6-month volunteer program. During this time, I was not only able to participate in great environmental projects in wonderful landscapes and meet fascinating people, but could also finish my certification as (Naui) Dive Master. I was mainly involved in the coral reef restoration efforts that was done in collaboration with Cforce (Fundación Calipso). I lived in the comfy rooms at Calipso Dive Center and shared the very family-like and true Colombian experience of being part of the dive school team. This in itself was a very rewarding experience in which I can say that I have grown as a person. Besides the dive master training, I was involved in the building and implementation of a coral nursery in the stunning Tayrona National park. This taught me a lot about coral reef ecology and underwater work.
The highlights of my stay – in both the literal and figurative – were the trips to Minca and the surroundings in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. From these beautiful mountains covered in lush forest, you can get a truly inspiring perspective on things. There, I was involved in helping out at a local school, which was a very fun and rewarding experience. All in all, I can recommend a volunteer program with Misión Gaia and Cforce to anyone who would like to broaden their horizon and who wants to play a valuable part in environmental conservation and social change.
Katja Karjalainen, Finland
Education for Sustainability
At the beginning, I was little bit suspicious about working as a volunteer while travelling. I´ve heard so many urban legends about volunteer workers being ripped off, but then I met Diana. We talked about Misión Gaia and I decided to participate with my two fellow travellers.
We were helping in a school in the mountains of Sierra Nevada for a couple of weeks. The experience was amazing - something that you can't experience just by travelling. We were learning about recycling, arts and crafts, sports, cooking and English (us volunteers, Spanish) with the sweetest kids in the world! We lived with them and ate with them. A couple of hours each day we were teaching in a classroom. They showed us how they live in the beautiful Zona Cafétera and we had small trips with them to the jungle and to waterfalls to swim.
It was fantastic to see that the kids were really enthusiastic to have us there and that they were really interested in learning English with us.
For me, the experience in the mountains was one of the greatest memories I have from Colombia. It was really interesting to see that no matter where you're from and how you live, in the end, we are all the same. Volunteering made my trip complete and I totally recommend to share a bit of your time and experience something special.
I hope to come back soon and work with Misión Gaia for a bit longer next time.