Every so often you encounter inspiring individuals that exemplify the true spirit of volunteerism. Eugenio Conti, Daniel Miske, and Ioanna Pechlivanidou, three Tourism Masters students studying in Aalborg Denmark, heard about our volunteer program in the Maldives with Huvadhoo Aid. They were so pleased to have such an interesting option for them to spend for their 3 month internship.
What initially attracted them to this project was of course being situated in a beautiful remote tropical island setting, but then once they connected with the Director of Huvadhoo Aid and myself via Skype and learnt more about the community’s needs and the opportunity to be involved with a hands on community tourism project, that really sealed the deal. It is such a raw, authentic project in a community that is in need of human resources and the drive to implement local initiatives that improve the livelihoods of the community members.
A 3 month internship on a very remote island is a huge commitment. These three were ready for the challenge and dove in head first – sometimes literally – Eugenio and Daniel would constantly be diving in the water, doing flips and hand stands. I remember the moment greeting them at the local airport near Hoadedhdhoo island, seeing their excitement and warm demeanors, I instantly felt that they would be a great fit for this project.
Being able to be open minded and adaptable, were very important qualities to have when you work in a very remote island community with few resources. With mainly fish and rice as the staple meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner paired with basic living conditions and a lack of ‘good coffee’ (especially difficult for the Italian), it was a big cultural adjustment to get used to. They light heartedly adjusted to the new diet and discovered ‘Ye Ye’s’ an instant coffee mix that did the trick.
They were always up for trying and exploring new things on the island – like finding that new amazing private island, trying to surf, playing volleyball and bashi, snorkeling with sea turtles, and a few overnight excursions to uninhabited islands.
Ioanna, the only female student, really connected with the women on the island and is even helping organize a Zumba event. The women on the island are crazy for Zumba and love dancing! Hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities for Women’s Empowerment Programs and different women’s group activities for future volunteer trips!
As far as their internships went, they were working on helping the organization, now referred to as Sun sHADe Volunteers, develop and enhance their volunteer program. Each intern was placed a little outside their comfort zone and assigned tasks such as enhancing the overall structure and programs for the organization, assisting with marketing and even designing a new program for Marine Conservation and Research. Even though you can easily get distracted from wanting to play in the beautiful tranquil seas, the 3 students set up camp in the Huvadhoo Aid office and worked on their projects.
Their enthusiasm for helping the organization and its community members grow and prosper was evident. They are even volunteering to continue to help the organization with various initiatives from abroad and see how their work gets implemented for future volunteer programs. I think they truly made a positive impact in the lives of the community members they touched and look forward to how the organization grows in the future. If you are interested in making a difference while travelling these three are a prime example of how this can be done. For more information about volunteering or doing an internship in the Maldives visit http://www.travelroots.ca/volunteer-in-the-maldives.