Volunteer Name: Colleen Woods
Project Location: Cartagena, Colombia
Volunteered at: Women support
How was the local ABV Coordinator/staff and the support provided in-country?
The coordinator was so helpful with any questions I had. I got to know her family well and everyone was very nice and supportive while I was here. I knew that she was always within reach! She made feel very comfortable and at home here in Cartagena.
What was the most surprising thing you experienced?
Program: There are a lot of babies and they always need more help. There is no A/C in the baby room
Host Family: Everything was as I expected. I had my own room and I was included in the family.
Country: I did a lot of research on Colombia beforehand. One thing I didn't expect was the amount of garbage in the streets.
What was the most challenging thing you experienced?
Program: Keeping all the babies happy at the same time :) At the foundation they could always use more hands!
Host Family: I loved each and every moment I had with them.
Country: I found the cat calling annoying and frustrating at times, but it is best to remember that this happens in a lot of countries outside the U.S. and you should just ignore it.
Any tips for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations)
1. Leave all jewelry/ watches/ etc at home.
2. Bringing gifts from home for your host family is a nice gesture. I brought some small gifts: baseball caps, t-shirts, lotions, etc. I made chocolate chip cookies and everyone loved them!
3. It’s very hot here, I wore shorts and light t-shirts when I wasn't working. At the foundation I wore pants and a summer shirt.
4. Understand that Colombian time is slower than American time. For me it was easy to adjust to because I tend to be late for everything! It's similar to Southern Spanish culture, and life here is much slower.
Other things volunteers should know before coming here:
(that's not in the orientation guide)
a. Bring stomach medicine (or better yet, buy it here!) if you have a sensitive stomach.
b. Water in Cartagena is very good, but it was something I couldn't adjust to. I only drank filtered water (we have a filter at my host family's house) or bottled water.
c. I felt very safe here, but at night be vigilant. Don't travel by bus at night or with a lot of cash.
d. ATMs are not as common place as they are in the U.S. Do minimal planning to be sure you have enough for what you need.
Personal Paragraph about the experience (ABV Program Testimonial):
I love the foundation and knew a lot about it before I arrived here, however the best part of my experience was living with my host family. I learned so much from them and was included in all their activities. My host mom taught me how to cook all the costal Colombian dishes! Having the opportunity to work at the foundation was an eye opening experience, especially to see all the young moms receiving help support from the foundation. The whole experience was very inspiring and enlightening.
How would you describe your accommodation, meals, security, friendliness, quality others:
I felt very safe here in Cartagena at all times. Some of the men will cat call at times, but you learn to just ignore it and keep walking. My host family was fabulous, funny and very loving. The food is delicious, but you won't find many greens or salads here. If you are used to eating a lot of salad, bring vitamin supplements. People want to help you, and the culture is relaxed and open. With basic Spanish skills, people will help you if you ask. The food is delicious, and a lot of it is fried! There are also a lot of soups, and always plantains.
What was your favorite memory of this trip?:
Program: Zumba class with all the employees at the foundation. All the moms and babies were cheering us on (and laughing at me!!) as we danced :)
Host Family: Visiting my host mom's family in San Bernardo del viento. It was absolutely breathtaking and I was able to meet even more family in Colombia :)
How was the ABV USA support prior traveling?
Everyone was very helpful and responded immediately. There is no need for improvement.
9.1- What do you think about the reservation system online?
Everything was user friendly and helpful.
9.2- How did you find Abroaderview website
Googling volunteer programs in Colombia.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers?