We are proud to announce that the first part of the full Value of Volunteering documentary is now available on this site. In this episode we concentrate on volunteer projects which aim to conserve endangered species through rescue and rehabilitation or captive breeding programs. Click on the picture below to view it:

 

Accompanying this episode we have also uploaded a short “travel diaries” film where you can view a few sequences of behind-the-scenes footage showing what life was like on the road during the filming of Value of Volunteering.

Well, we both got back safely and have spent the last few weeks tackling the mountains of footage we brought back. Its all going well and the documentary is coming together. We hope to get the first episode online towards the end of August, but for now we are releasing some short films that we hope will be of interest to you. They are based around characters we met on our travels who gave really interesting interviews about all sorts of topics relating to volunteering, conservation and Central America in general, but which there just isn’t time to include in the finished documentary . They are on the videos page under the “Extra footage and interviews” tab.

We will add one a week until the first episode of the documentary is ready. Please leave your comments or get in touch with us with your opinions – at this stage your feedback is invaluable. Thanks!

Me and Mike have been constantly surprised by how many volunteer projects there are everywhere we go and have slowly decided that the best way to find a good one is to travel and search for opportunities along the way. We thought, however, it was probably best to do some actual research to see if this is possible. So we arrived in the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro (a popular backpacker destination in Panama) to find as many NGOs as we could. Over the following days we visited floating doctors, surfers who help schools in indigenous communities, ex-pat women who make crafts from rubbish found on the beach and Spanish language students who spend there spare time visiting the local elderly home. In all we found about 10 charitable organisations that take on volunteers, as well as countless hostels and eco-lodges which offer free accommodation to tourists in exchange for volunteering. We were relieved to find that we weren’t wrong.

This afternoon we arrived in San Jose and so begins the slow return north. In 3 days Mike will be in Guatemala where he plans to study Spanish for his remaining month. I’m hoping to meet up with some friends in Nicaragua before joining him to get the last few essential shots we need to complete the documentary. It’s been emotional.

We have spent the last week on a farm near the small community of San Ramon in northern Costa Rica, living with a family who are thinking of setting up a  volunteer project and a kind of cultural experience homestay. The whole thing has been really interesting for us as its made us think about all the projects we’ve visited so far and evaluate what makes them work (or not work). I guess you could say we’ve been thinking about the philosophy behind volunteering.

Either way we’ve had a fantastic week, lassoing maniacal horses with 8 year old Emanuel, going to local village dances with the teenage daughters and working in the field with mama Rita. We even went to a Rodeo which nearly ended in disaster when a raging bull hurtled towards us and Katie got hit by the rider, falling into the ring.  She didn’t die, its ok. We’ve also visited some beautiful waterfalls and a ghost village destroyed by an earthquake in 2008. Overall its been a great chance for us to enjoy rural life in Central America,  improve our Spanish a bit and feel a little at home somewhere so far away from our friends and family. Muchisimas gracias los Brenes!

 

 

 

 

This blog post comes to you from the luscious slopes of Mount Chirripo – the highest peak in Costa Rica. We are visiting a private reserve named Cloudbridge, home to an ongoing reforestation and research project which is supplemented by the unique talents of a small hoard of volunteers. We have seen our fair share of beautiful waterfalls, an impressive amount of  birds and not a small number of frogs. We have been welcomed extremely warmly by everyone in the Cloudbridge  team and there is a distinctly homely feel surrounding the project. Our enthusiasm has not only been renewed by the good company but also by the fact that we have access, for the first time on the trip, to some decent video editing software. We hope that you enjoy a taste of what we wish all of our blog posts could look like:

 

Quetzal Hunt from Value of Volunteering on Vimeo.

The moment we reached the Costa Rican border we were met by torrential rain and a three-fold increase in prices of everything. I guess that’s the price you pay for luscious rainforest and  a transportation system that isn’t complete pandemonium (metered taxis were a pleasant surprise). Costa Rica has an economy that is heavily dependent on environmental tourism, resulting in an abundance of conservation and eco-tourism projects that take on volunteers.

We have spent the last week working with one such organisation, the Monteverde Conservation League, who manage the largest protected area in Costa Rica. It is named the “Children’s Eternal Forest”  because the land was acquired through the fundraising activities of children around the world.

We have spent some time filming in the rainforest and also been staying with the most friendly and hilarious family of artists who have been feeding us profusely with a veritable smorgasbord of delicious treats. We reigned in Katie’s Birthday with a cake the size of the tabletop.  It has, however, been quite a challenge for us to find new and exciting angles for the film as we are starting to find projects which are quite similar to other locations we have filmed at. In our exploration of Monteverde, however, we stumbled upon a butterfly garden which also takes on volunteers. Not being the same old non-profit NGOs that we are used too, it provided us with a fresh view of the world of volunteering – somewhat like “woofing” where volunteers get food and accommodation. Here we met some inspiring and experienced characters who gave us a great insight into the philosophy of volunteering and have given us a renewed enthusiasm for the project.

I hope you enjoy my butterfly video. Its a bit self-indulgent and unnecessary but its my birthday and I don’t care.

All the best. K&M

 

Monteverde butterflies from Value of Volunteering on Vimeo.

Las Mercedes from Value of Volunteering on Vimeo.

Sonati – Leon from Value of Volunteering on Vimeo.

As our first marine-oriented volunteer project, Roatan posed some interesting challenges for two amateurs in the world of underwater filmmaking. Not least the fact that neither of us have dived for many years and Mike only holds a junior dive certificate. Add a camera, tripod and speargun to the equation and things get tricky. As usual we faced a steep learning curve but seem to have left with some good shots.

Roatan is the second of the three Honduran Bay Islands and is heavily frequented by backpackers, American holiday makers, cruise ships and everything inbetween. There are consequently huge pressures on the coastal and marine environment and the Marine Park not only works to maintain the island’s infrastructure in a way that will not damage the reef, but also pours a lot of time and resources into education programs.

With local children and tourists, we found ourselves painting recycling bins, teaching schoolkids about the three “R”s (Recycle, Reduce, Reuse!), and learning about the invasive lion fish, the spearing of which is heavily endorsed by the folk at the marine park.

We have now arrived in Nicaragua and are enjoying the vibe, the prices, and the latest project with which we will be scaling some kind of volcano early tomorrow morning…