Calyca Greenwald - 2016 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad? 

I wanted to do something out of my norm. I love traveling and volunteering, the two together was a match made in heaven.

Girl holding a puppy at a veterinary clinic
Holding a cute little pup!

Why did you choose GVI?

I had been looking into GVI for years, then decided to dive in! I did a lot of research and reached out to other people who had used them before, and I heard nothing but good things.

What was your favorite part about Mexico? 

The community feel. I was only there a short time, but I felt safe and involved the entire time.

Why was your experience abroad unique?

My background in animal medicine. I was able to really help the clinic with their operations. Most stay in the recovery, but I was able to assist in preparation and even help the veterinarian out in the OR.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were understanding and forgiving about the language barrier. They also pushed my boundaries but never made me feel uneasy about anything; it felt secure.

Was it really difficult to communicate with locals?

Communicating was a little difficult because I don't speak Spanish. Luckily a few other volunteers did, and enough locals speak English that it was never that hard to communicate.

Dog sleeping in a cage
Sleepy puppy after operation

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Stayed for longer!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Get up, eat, go to the clinic. Then either head straight home or go to the beach, visit the other GVI members, discuss our day, have dinner, clean up, and then go to bed!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

The beach! I'm from Alberta, Canada so anytime I'm able to spend time on the beach I feel blessed.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

We stayed in a house. It felt like home, not a fancy hotel. I think staying in a house is what really made the experience; I felt even more like a member of the community. No A/C though, so it got hot.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

It's hot and humid with a lot of walking. Be warned.

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Mexico?

A few packing tips to México, in general, includes sunscreen, a good water bottle, and light clothes!

Volunteer bathing a puppy
Giving a pup a bath before he went home

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?

I actually had it pretty easy volunteering abroad. Mexico isn't that far away from my home, I had wifi, great food, and company. I was also only gone for ten days in total, so it wasn't even that long of a trip. The "hardest" part would be the climate difference; I'm not used to a humid heat.

What surprised you most about Mexico?

I was most surprised by how much I loved it. Even though it was such a short time I was welcomed into the GVI house, the Playa del Carmen community, and Coco's so fast - it really felt like home.

Volunteer checking on a puppy at a clinic
Providing post-operation care

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

The biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is probably the realization of understanding how good I have life living in Canada. It makes me stop and appreciate the things I typically take for granted.

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life? 

My love for medicine, travel, and volunteering was reinvented. I changed my job, my living situation, and my goals, all to find the best me possible.

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

My next volunteer trip is already booked! I'm going to Thailand for a month. I'm using GVI again, I'll be staying at a small village with elephants.

Would you recommend GVI to others? Why?

Yes! It was such a eye opening experience. I'm using GVI again and always suggest it to people who are wanting to volunteer abroad.