Support Volunteer Opportunities with GROW Bananas

Recognize Those that Volunteer and Support GROW

Celebrate those that volunteer on April 20 for Volunteer Recognition Day. Organics Unlimited held a contest for one lucky winner to receive a paid volunteer trip experience with Project Amigo in Colima, Mexico, one of the major funds recipients of GROW. This March, Karla “Sam” Gonzalez, the winner visited Cofradía de Suchitlán, a small village in Colima; to partake in the Literacy and Environment week with Project Amigo. We would like share Sam’s story with you, and you can learn more about her experience after the jump. 

For some, this volunteer opportunity with Project Amigo is the first time they have ever left the U.S., which was also the case for Sam.

“Never having traveled out of the country by myself before, I was a bit nervous  but not as nervous as my mother who urged me to be careful and touch base with someone at home daily.”

A volunteer opportunity in a community in Mexico that farms bananas sounds like a bit of a culture switch, but Sam was quite surprised by the housing.

“The accommodations were far better than I had anticipated, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t the high level of comfort I found.”

Project Amigo brings people from all over the country together for one fantastic mission. The first day of the volunteer week really opened her eyes to her fellow volunteers.

“It was when we had an Introductory-to-Spanish lesson that I realized what a great group of people I was surrounded by. These English speakers tried so hard to get the basics so that they could communicate with the locals around the town, but more importantly so that they could communicate with the children. It was the first humbling moment for me with many, many more to follow.”

During the volunteer week, Sam went to Queseria to visit a school on one of their holidays. They spent many hours playing with the kids, touring and beautifying the school, and improving the safety of the playground and school equipment.

“This was the one project in which we were able to have instant gratification by seeing what it was like when we came in and what it was after we left. The smiles on the kids’ faces and their enthusiasm was priceless.”

(Click on the images below to enlarge)

Sam also took part in some home visits with Project Amigo scholarship recipients. She learned about the students’ progress in school, their favorite subjects, and their goals.

“I related very personally to the becarios (scholars) because the house in which I grew up in Tijuana resembled that which we visited. It was an uncomfortable, but humbling experience for me to see what may have been had my mother not left her hometown of Queretaro.”

Ted Rose and Susan Hill, the founders of Project Amigo, met all of the volunteers as well.

“It was truly an honor to get to visit their home and share in conversation with them and some of the other volunteers.”

There was one child’s whose words touched Sam emotionally as she spoke of the value the “support and encouragement” of the volunteers gave them.

“This to me was particularly important to hear because it is not something that I grew up with. I put so much importance on this as a mother and aunt, to make sure that the young people in my life know that I’m proud of them and their accomplishments. I constantly encourage that they try new things and celebrate their victories. It was validating to hear these words from a perfect stranger and I didn’t even realize that I was looking for validation.”

Not only did Sam get to experience all of the good that Project Amigo and the volunteer program is able to accomplish, but she also got to visit an Organics Unlimited plantation where she learned about how the bananas grow and the sustainability process.

“I learned so much in less than an hour and was so impressed with the operations of the plantation. I had no idea just how much work went into getting GROW bananas to my local Jimbo’s.”

After her first week ever out of the United States by herself, this was one experience Sam would never forget.

“During my week in Colima I got to meet so many great people from so many different walks of life. It was an honor and blessing to work with them to help better the world and communities in which we don’t live but still matter. It was great to get the chance to see where my donation went and see the joy on childrens’ faces as they received new books. Overall, I couldn’t have dreamed of or planned a more perfect experience!”

Since her trip, Sam has kept in contact with other volunteers and are planning to save up for another volunteer trip in a few years.

If you are interested in participating in a volunteer week with Project Amigo, you can learn more on their website and see their schedule.

The purchase of a banana is what makes a difference. If you are interested in participating in the GROW program to help keep volunteer programs like these thrive, please visit GROWBananas.org for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.