Hi, my name is Ruby, I’m 28 years old and I live in a suburb right outside of Washington, DC. I’ve been a contractor for the government for the last 5 years and I hope to transition into becoming a full-time travel and documentary photographer. I’m a serious adventure junkie; I’ve gone white water rafting, sky diving, and love a serious adrenaline rush. My goal is to eventually work location independent, allowing for my family and I to travel where ever we please, whenever we please.
Was this your first experience volunteering abroad?
This was not my first time volunteering abroad, in fact just last year I was in Costa Rica teaching English to kids at a local orphanage for 2 weeks. Giving back is important to me so I plan to volunteer all over the world.
How did you select and get involved with the Girls Gone Global organization?
I’ve been aware of Girls Going Global and founder Martice since its inception, but it wasn’t until earlier this year when I saw a post on another travel blog requesting chaperones for their upcoming trip to Costa Rica that I got involved. They were looking for several women to join the team who were well-versed in photography, mentoring and a fluent Spanish speaker. As it relates to preparing for the trip, I was lucky in that the organization planned out the entire trip right down to the last detail. The founder went months in advance to curate an agenda that was full of cultural immersion, daily Spanish lessons and a cooking class for the girls as well as some adventure, including horseback riding to a waterfall and surfing lessons. The cost to go on the trip was $1200 which included airfare, accommodations, all activities, transportation and food. Over the course of 3 months we had several payments scheduled, so it wasn’t due all at once. Our trip lasted for 6 days total - including travel days - so in my opinion, we got a lot for our money!
What are some of your most memorable experiences from the trip?
What was most memorable about the experience for me had to be horseback riding to the Acquarries Waterfall. The group was split up into two and I went with the first one. I didn’t know how I was going to ride a horse and capture the moment but I was determined. I snapped pictures of everyone as they mounted their horse before I got on my own, to say I wasn’t nervous would be an understatement. After a few gallops I got the hang of it. My funniest moment was watching the girls cross the river to the other side of the waterfall to get a better look. Our guides were a huge help when it came to no one being swept away, they were cracking up the entire time!
The entire group decided to stay in Turrialba at Spanish by the river, a small town just 2 hours south east of the capital, San Jose. There were rolling hills, beautiful landscapes and a picturesque place to be. On our last full day we traveled 3 hours east to the Caribbean side, Puerto Viejo and stayed at Talmanca hostel, where the beds were comfy and the staff was welcoming.
What impact do you believe you were able to make on both the local community and the girls you were chaperoning?
On our fourth day in Costa Rica, we volunteered at a local school. The girls taught the local children easy songs like “itsy bitsy spider” and other nursery American rhymes. The local children then taught our girls simple songs from their culture as well. The cultural exchange was precious and extremely touching. The experience also impacted me deeply, as I was clicking away with my camera. It was like magic as they interacted with each other using few words and quite a few hand gestures. I saw how much fun everyone was having and was grateful to be there.
What advice and recommendations do you have for others interested in volunteering abroad?
My advice to those who are interested in volunteering abroad would be to do it! The experience is amazing, you feel that you are truly making a difference in someone’s life, and the feeling is very satisfying. Especially if you normally work a 9-5 job week in and week out. I would definitely recommend volunteering with this organization, they were extremely organized and had everything planned out. I didn’t doubt anything for a second. If you visit their website girlsgoinglgobal.org you will find there are many ways in which to give back; through donations, research, etc.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned through your volunteer travels?
The biggest lessons I’ve learned while volunteering abroad is that when it comes down to it, we are all human, we require food and water to nourish our bodies, shelter to protect us and family and friends who make us feel loved and needed. We don’t all start out in life on an even playing field but that shouldn’t define who we are or what we do. I’ve learned to be grateful and to have humility. I am forever changed by my experiences.
What’s next for you?
Next up is another volunteering stint in Cape Town, South Africa for 2 weeks later this year where I will be teaching the youth how to surf. I’m using the same agency with which I volunteered in Costa Rica with, volunteerhq.org. They are reputable, professional and easy to work with. They make the process of volunteering in a foreign land simple. I am definitely looking forward to it!
Images Courtesy of Ruby Melton