Volunteer OverseasVolunteer Overseas

A student in New York decides to volunteer at the conservation project in Costa Rica over his summer vacation

Ian HackettUltimately, the aim of any volunteer work is to be part of a greater community and a bigger picture. This comes from seeing an impact first-hand. By working one-on-one with local communities and studying the ecology of a specific area, volunteering at a conservation project provides this opportunity.

Ian Hackett took advantage of his summer vacation to travel from the Bronx in New York to Barra Honda National Park in Northwestern Costa Rica to volunteer with Projects Abroad. Conservation work at Barra Honda focuses on educating the local community and preserving the ecology found within its perimeters. Volunteers work with local experts on various projects including reforestation efforts involving planting trees and seed germination, environmental education in schools, water conservation efforts, trail maintenance, bat and butterfly surveys, and recycling initiatives. The work is challenging and the accommodation is basic but the lack of traditional comforts is a fair exchange for such a close proximity to nature. “I’m part Jamaican, and my mom and I like to visit our home country,” says Ian. “Down there, there’s a lot of manual labor to do so I’m pretty experienced in that. That’s part of the reason why I chose conservation in Costa Rica.”

Surrounded by a chain of volcanoes to the East and by the Pacific Ocean to the West, the location of the park in Guanacaste Province is one of the driest areas in Costa Rica. As a result, it is also one of the areas most vulnerable to climate change. The lack of rain over the current rainy season has left many concerned about the health of the forest and the availability of water. This makes conservation efforts more vital than ever. “I heard that there was a waterfall nearby but it had dried up due to the hot weather and drought,” says Ian. “So we raked the leaves away from it, and a few days later, I went back to the forest to see flowing spring water. Where I had raked, I saw water flowing. You see the benefit of the work that you have done and what can be done in the future. We really need to support green life, and it needs to support us too.”

“I do think volunteering makes a difference,” Ian adds. “It shows you the experience that other people have to go through in their daily lives. I think it will make a person better in their work, and it will make them think about what their real purpose is.”

We hope great stories like these inspire others to help Projects Abroad continue to make a difference, and by doing so, learn something themselves along the way.

Read more about Conservation in Costa Rica.

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