AMIGOS Volunteering Impact in 2021
In Costa Rica, students immersed themselves in the world of coffee farming in the luscious forests of this beautiful Central American country. They got to learn first-hand from Costa Rican partner agencies and local families about the process of farming and roasting coffee, as well as the economics tied to this industry and how it impacts the entire nation.
AMIGOS volunteers supported communities with daily coffee farming activities, prepared the land, trimmed plants, and processed and packaged coffee. For one of our cohorts, it was especially moving to work alongside a Costa Rican coffee-farming couple and support the entire family in their own coffee fields. Other cohorts also got to learn about international coffee commerce, food justice, and the efforts in place to narrow the gender gap in Costa Rican coffee farming communities. On the Atlantic Coast, AMIGOS volunteers carried out nightly beach patrols to protect sea turtles, monitor hatching, and do beach clean-ups, as well as additional conservation work like planting trees, cleaning trails, and taking part in community water testing.
“We did a beach clean up, which felt very satisfying because we filled five huge trash bags. At the institute reserve we planted trees, which was so fun because we got to learn about how we were contributing to the community. Lastly, we did night patrol where we walked for 4 hours for 3 nights to save turtles from poachers.” – Nina, Monteverde y Costa Atlántica 2021
During their time in Nicaragua, AMIGOS volunteers took on service projects that revolved around insightful STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) issues. Alongside a Nicaraguan partner agency, they renovated six solar ovens which provided multiple families with the means to continue baking products to sell, which enables families to earn additional income. Volunteers also fixed solar panel systems in several Nicaraguan homes, allowing families to reduce their carbon footprint, electrical bills, and have access to light during the evenings for their homes.
To harvest healthy crops in the community, volunteers also learned from locals how to make and apply natural fertilizers, pesticides, and compost on the community gardens. Students were also able to experiment and learn about renewable energy, as well as learn about sustainable water sanitation systems in rural communities.
“During my project, I learned an innumerable number of strategies for group dynamics, facts about Nicaraguan culture, and gained a greater appreciation for Nicaragua itself. The time with the local partner agency was very valuable, as we learned how to build electrical/PV circuits, repaired solar and eco-ovens, and how to use compost and fertilizers for sustainable agricultural processes.” -Hudson, Nicaragua 2021
This year was very special for AMIGOS, as we launched our very first summer project within the United States. In our Western Colorado Project, AMIGOS volunteers learned a variety of issues under the umbrella of conservation, such as wildfire management, bighorn sheep conservation, food justice, trail maintenance, and all about regenerative land practices. Volunteers were able to support organic farming and gardening efforts of local organizations, support with trail maintenance and building, and collect and test water samples from local rivers which would then be sent back to the state of Colorado to report data on.
They participated in environmental science field trips, learned about local conservation issues, and even got to discuss alongside a partner agency about the reintroduction of the grey wolves in Colorado. To complement their learning and service activities, they were able to visit and interact with the Native American Ute community in southwestern Colorado.
“I learned so much over this project I couldn’t summarize all of it here. However, some of the most important things include: 1) An in-depth grasp of environmental issues in Colorado such as the impact of wildfires and wildfire suppression, how native species such as bighorn sheep and wolves are impacted by humans and livestock, and how to determine water and soil quality. 2) It gave me an insight into how I am incorporating environmental solutions into my community and how my privilege affects my perspective.” – Lily, Western Colorado 2021
In the Andes mountains of Ecuador, volunteers learned about indigenous rights and food security through hands-on service activities and workshops. They stayed in an ecotourism lodge in an indigenous rural community outside of Cuenca. They were able to learn a lot from a partner organization that focused on the correlation of the four natural elements of earth, air, water and fire, and how these influence agriculture, gastronomy, medicine, music, architecture, and spirituality. AMIGOS volunteers supported the local organization with reforestation projects, mural painting, planting native trees, harvesting crops, garden maintenance, and supporting bioconstruction projects to create natural insulation for walls.
On the Pacific coast of Ecuador, volunteers focused on sustainable community development and disaster recovery activities. They restored an old school to convert it into a community center. They cleaned and scraped the walls, relocated construction materials, painted the interior and exterior of the building, and planted native trees along the terrain’s entryway. They were able to help construct walls using sustainable materials like bamboo and clay. Once at the beach, they got to participate in beach clean-ups to remove single-use plastics.
“During my time in Ecuador, I volunteered mostly at farms. At La Granja, I helped build a path from rocks, plant sun flowers, weed, milk cows, and so much more. At Kinti Wasi, I planted trees and helped with bioconstruction. Learning about food security through farming this summer has been really memorable for me because it has made me think more about where my food comes from.” – Zuzi, La Sierra 2021
Thank you, Amigos – for pushing your limits, showing sympathy, compassion, and resilience. You should be proud of all your accomplishments from AMIGOS Summer 2021! If you would like to join us next summer for another adventure, check out our new programs here. We will be embarking on new adventures in Costa Rica, Colorado, Ecuador and Panama – we can’t wait for you to tag along!