Ricky and Niko 2018

RICKY, AND NIKO, FROM SPAIN AND SWITZERLAND, VOLUNTEERED WITH GIVE A FIG VOLUNTEERING SUMMER 2018

Of College du Leman, Geneva and now Universidad Pontificia Comillas (ICADE), Madrid; University of Cardiff, Wales

We decided to volunteer in the summer of 2018, but even though we’ve been friends forever, we couldn’t agree on what we wanted to do, nor where we wanted to go. We brainstormed many possible options, ranging from volunteering at a children’s nursery in Ghana to working with elephants in India. I wanted to focus on construction, whilst Niko preferred animal conservation, and so we agreed on Education. Fortunately for us, we came across Give a Fig Volunteering, a non-profit organization based in Sri Lanka. They were perfect for us; we could focus on education and construction, and they were flexible enough to enable us to incorporate turtle conservation during the last few days.

This flexibility required organization and tailoring, which Give A Fig Volunteering were more than willing to do. Unlike most organizations that have their fixed itineraries, GAFV enable us to customize our volunteer experience, adapting it to our different interests and preferences. It’s definitely something that we both appreciated.

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With most organizations you would typically find yourself with unreasonable prices that didn’t specify where your money went. Give a Fig Volunteering was more transparent with the costs of volunteering, but more importantly, Give A Fig were significantly cheaper than other volunteering organisations we’d looked into. We read some reviews on their site which said this, and we certainly found it to be true. And they were a totally professional organisation. Paying less, didn’t mean getting less! We also funded the building of the double toilet, and we know by the receipts, that all of the money went on that project.

Above all, GAFV were totally accommodating. They are embedded in the Sri Lankan society, smoothing out the organization of our daily activities and enabling us to meet and actually get to know locals, whether they were monks, teachers, construction workers, and even the police. Their HQ is the accommodation, and doubles up as hostel – the Fig and Gecko – which supports the non-profit work, and it really did become ‘home’. The food was excellent, as were the beds, and the place is kept really clean.

 
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We split our visit between education and construction, volunteering in the local government schools, as well as a monks’ school located in the the sacred city of Anuradhapura. We funded and built a toilet facility the Anglican church in the town – which had a communal toilet for the first time in 50 years. Although everything is very well organized, planning in advance only gets you so far. A few hiccups are very normal in any developing country, but Give A Fig’s professionalism meant they were dealt with positively and constructively. We’ve heard lots of tales of volunteers going somewhere and not being supported, but that was definitely not the case here. GAFV were on hand 24/7.

The four-day volunteering week was absolutely perfect. We thought we’d prefer to work 5 days, but actually, GAFV got the balance just right. We found that we had the energy to work hard for 4 days, and the 3 days a week to relax, recharge, and go on trips to see the amazing country.

 
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GAFV planned with us really well – and we came back each week with enthusiasm to carry on doing our best. GAFV would organize weekend trips to visit the beautiful natural and archeological sites in Sri Lanka. What I love about GAFV was that, not only do they stress the importance of volunteering but also encourage visiting touristic locations and becoming familiar with Sri Lankan culture. Many examples include taking part in ceremonies, visiting the monks’ village, making pots with local potters and going on a tractor ride to look for wildlife. The villagers were humble people that we learnt a lot from.

GAFV advised on and planned all of our tourist stops in the country – and they did an amazing job, as they know so much about the country. We split our 4 week in Sri Lanka with 3 weeks volunteering and 1 week sightseeing, where we went on a great trip around the island. Paul and Jane organized a driver for us and recommended amzing places to go and see at all our stops. Overall, I would absolutely recommend this experience.

 
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Kris Rees