I always wanted to take a gap year, and during it I wanted to do something useful and give back. Having done volunteering before at home, I decided it would be a great opportunity to volunteer abroad.
Why did you choose your Honduras Child Alliance (HCA)?
I chose HCA because it is affordable and you can see where the money you pay is going, as well as the feeling that they are really helping the community.
What was your favorite part about Honduras?
Honduras as a country was amazing, and I'm so happy that I was able to go to a country that has such a bad reputation as very dangerous, but I got to see another side to it.
What made your experience abroad unique?
Because the NGO is very small and localised, the experience I had was with a tight knit community of volunteers who did not change that much whilst I was there. A sense of continuity between the teachers and kids was so useful.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
My project manager Jenna met me as I arrived in the taxi from the airport and gave me an orientation of the house, the area, and the teaching program. Throughout my time we had meetings as volunteers many times a week to keep us all on the same page. I could talk to Jenna about anything that had happened in class. I also taught an adult class with Jenna, so she was very much involved in the program and was a great help in difficult situations or with guidance about teaching.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I had learnt more Spanish before I went; not that it's a huge problem that I didn't, so don't be put off by that, but it would have made the first few days easier!
How difficult was it to communicate with locals?
There was difficulty to begin with but as my Spanish began to improve combined with the friendliness and patience of the locals and the kids we were working with, there was very little difficulty usually!
Describe a typical day in the life of your program.
Wake up at 7:30 a.m. for some cornflakes on the porch. Then get dressed and ready for class to leave between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., depending on location, and be ready for classes at 9 a.m.! Classes would begin with free time games, followed by circle time, snack, and then the activity and lesson for the day. Morning class ended at 11 a.m., then we were free to go back to the house and have some food, relax, and maybe plan for the afternoons classes.
Afternoon classes began at 1:30 p.m. with the same format, usually in a different location with different kids than in the morning. These classes would finish at 3:30 p.m. Then sometimes I would have English club from 4:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., where were more private lessons for kids with extra enthusiasm for learning English. Then it would be back to relax until adult classes from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. After that we would go home for some dinner, maybe watch a movie together, and then go to bed!
What did you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I enjoyed swimming in the sea and reading my book on the beach. I also enjoyed getting smoothies from the place opposite my accommodation and lying in the hammocks! I also used my free time to brush up on some Spanish!
What surprised you most about Honduras?
The most surprising thing was probably how safe I felt, given the bad reputation that the country has.
What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?
My accommodation was in VH1, a three bedroom house with two bathrooms, a kitchen, and living room. I shared with one other person who was lovely! VH1 had a very homely feel. There was space for us all and it was clean.
My favourite thing was that we had a garden and porch with chairs to sit out and watch the chickens scratch about in the garden, or look at what was happening in the street!
What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in Honduras?
I wish I'd taken the fact it was the rainy season more seriously and invested in a decent rain poncho!
Do you have any other packing tips for individuals headed to Honduras?
Packing tips I wish I'd known: whilst you need to bring clothes for the classroom that aren't too revealing, and that you're happy to get dirty, also bring some nicer clothes that you can wear when you go away at the weekend! Bring some sturdy shoes, like boots or trainers, for the ants that like to get your feet sometimes. If you're going in the rainy season, buy a waterproof poncho that will cover you and your bag!
What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?
The hardest part was settling in to begin with, being away from anyone you know, and not having a full understanding of the way things were run. However, this went away quickly once I had settled in and began to learn!
What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?
You may take a bit of time getting used to it, but trust that by the end you won't want to leave, and put all your effort into the time you spend with the kids, because you'll miss it most when you're gone!
Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?
It has changed me for the better, made me more grateful, and given me a lifelong attachment to the country and the kids that I taught, with the ever present desire to return!
What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?
The biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is that it changes your life, for the better, and is an experience that you'll never forget. It was incredibly rewarding, has definitely improved various skills to prepare me for life, and was great fun!
Would you recommend your program to others? Why?
I would absolutely recommend my program to others because it is very genuine, small scale, affordable, and absolutely life changing.
If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?
I would be likely to volunteer in Honduras again, as I know how the organisation works and I know that the work they are doing is helping the community! If I were to volunteer elsewhere it would definitely also be with children, and I would know what to look for and where to look in order to find a good organisation.
Hannah is from the United Kingdom. She volunteered in Honduras while on a gap year between high school and university, and she is currently traveling around Asia as her gap year continues. Hannah will be going to The University Of York in September.