Nathalie Lafleur - 2015 Program Participant
Nathalie at Armacao dos Buzios in Brazil
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad?
I wanted to do volunteering around the world for years. I decided to go to Brazil to discover more about the culture, the music, the way of living. But my principal goal was to help people at the same time I was traveling.
Why did you choose IVHQ for your volunteer abroad experience? What makes their programs great?
I choose IVHQ because after shopping different types of programs I loved theirs. They have different types of programs, you volunteer as many weeks as you want with a minimum of two weeks, depending on the program. They give you orientation to make your travel safer and easier. The cost is better than traveling by yourself, considering it includes donations and living. They are really structured and you spend time with other volunteers from over the world. You make new friends, new connections, and an amazing experience.
What did you like about living in Rio de Janeiro?
Rio de Janeiro is the city you want to be in during Carnaval. Is a big city where you have a mix of cultures. It is not as dangerous, as they say, if you are aware about the advisories. It is like traveling in a different world. To be honest it felt like paradise for me. You never finish discovering a new spot to visit. Brazilians are really friendly. The food is good. The transport is not easy but you get use to it when you understand the way it works. I felt at home in another country.
What about your program made it unique?
It was a unique experience. I felt I was truly into the Brazilian culture. I met amazing people that were volunteering in different projects. I made contacts so I want to go back. The program was well organized. They prepared us pretty well before we left our home. Working with organisms and discovering the communities was the best way to get into the culture and to also understand the reasons why they need the volunteers. To exchange and share love.
Nathalie visiting Cristo Redemptor in Brazil
How did local staff support you during your time in Rio?
We had an orientation day to guide us in the different areas of the city. They brought us to the organization we worked with and described our work. Before I left the country they answered all the questions I sent to them through e-mails. They gave us a program with restaurants and activity suggestions we could do in our free time. They gave us their phone number in case something was wrong. They supported us from the beginning to the end.
Would you change anything about your program experience if you could?
I would say we were a lot of people in the hostel. I think it would be a good idea to have less people in the rooms (but understandable since it was Carnaval weeks). Otherwise, I just had wish to stay longer. If it wasn't that I had obligations back home I would have stayed forever.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
You wake up around an hour before you leave the house. You take a shower and have breakfast with the other volunteers. You get ready and leave with the girls and boys volunteering with you. I had two buses to take to get to our volunteering program. Then we surfed with the kids in the morning and during the afternoon taught them English for a maximum of two hours, including theory but also music and games. Around 4 p.m., we quit the program to go home and take the buses again. Arriving to the hostel, we had supper together and later went out for a drink or making new friends in the area.
What was your favorite activity outside of your daily schedule?
Going to Ilha Grande for a weekend. I just want to live on that island. If you want paradise that is where you have to be. There were young people like us traveling. We stayed in a really nice hostel. We had a boat ride for six hours. We ate really good food. We met amazing musicians, travelers, and locals. We stayed on different beaches. We never had enough time to visit everything. It is a good reason to go back.
What was your housing situation like? What type of amenities did you have?
I was in the girls room of eight people with bunk beds. We had wood boxes to place our clothes. We were around 30 volunteers in the same hostel. We had four bathrooms, two kitchens, and a garden to share. Each month we had one chance to have free laundry and once per week a cleaning lady washed our bed sheets. We were able to hand wash our clothes in the sink on the roof and dry them on ropes with supports.
How would you say volunteering in Brazil has impacted your life?
It changed my life. I was used to volunteering sometimes, but now I have built a goal to volunteer once per month with organizations in my home town. I see life differently. I stay positive and never give up on anything I want to achieve. I am already planning to go back volunteering around the world as soon as I can.