I visited the organization’s home community of Hoadedhdhoo January 2015 and loved the concept of an authentic community-based experience in the Maldives. I then decided to recruit a group of volunteers from around the globe to participate in a 3 week volunteer excursion August 10 – 31, 2015. It ended up being quite an amazing and unique adventure. I was so happy to see the group of volunteers create such a strong bond and kept a very open mind during the trip despite a lot of changes in the itinerary and having to adapt to the local realities.
Upon arrival, we instantly had to adjust into the ‘island’ lifestyle which involved slowing things down – sometimes a little too slow :), changing your diet to mostly fish and rice, dealing with the elements like the heat, the rain, the bugs, and the marine creatures, and dealing with the Maldivians extremely laid back demeanour. A typical saying in the Maldives is ‘no problem… we can arrange…’ and ‘why not!’. They really try to go out of their way to give you the local experience.
Since there is no tourism on the island, everyone is treated like a local and some of my favourite moments were just walking around the community and getting to know the locals. Every day between 4 – 6pm the community would be out playing sports or hanging out at either the jetty or the football field. This is a great time to bond with locals, whether it’s playing volleyball, football, or bashi – a local women’s sport similar to tennis but played a little ‘backwards’.
In addition to experiencing life in the community we got a chance to explore the nearby uninhabited islands and went snorkelling, wakeboarding, fishing, and we even spent the night on an uninhabited island that was managed by Zakir, a kind Bangladesh man that was stationed there to be a guardian for the island and try to earn money to send home to his family. He was such an amazing man and made sure we were always well taken care of while we were on his island.
What made this trip so special, was sharing it with such an amazing group of individuals from around the world! Their wonderful spirit of volunteerism and a willingness to learn about a new lifestyle and culture was so beautiful to experience. Now that I have a chance to reflect on this journey, I’m so happy that I was able to connect such a great group of people to this remote tiny island in the Maldives. I’m looking forward to seeing how the organization grows and the volunteers they attract for future adventures!