Campeche is a relatively small city in the relatively large state. Most visitors miss it or don’t get to it along their peninsular route, but I wasn’t headed there as a tourist. I had a month-long placement at Ninth Wave Global, an environmental organisation.
What was my purpose there?
I was there on a general placement meaning that I partook in any activity they needed help with. I had a lot of variety and did different things everyday, but that also means that I didn’t really have a job per say. Also, my goal was to observe and get a feel on how NGO’s outside of Canada function, how they interact with the local community, and also how they bring about change in a community-oriented, need-based manner. Ninth Wave has great vision and work methods that differ from what’s done in many traditional volunteer placements. I invite you to read about them here. If you have any questions, it would be the perfect timing to give me a call!
Here are some key components of their work
- Organic relationships: The best relationships are formed over time and are not rushed where people get introduced by mutual acquaintances or by a random encounter. These create strong community links and allow for a mutual benefit instead of an unequal power dilemma.
- Horizontal conversations: Sharing stories and asking questions. Interacting with the human beings that form communities to understand their needs and daily lives without demands or expecting something in return. Being humble towards the other.
- Undevelopment: Recognizing that top-down development is often ill-adapted to a community’s needs and creates an unwanted necessity towards outside aid. Fostering resilience and self-autonomy. Fostering community-led projects based on community values for the community’s needs.
- Intersectional environmentalism: A better, greener planet can only be achieved by uplifting the marginalized and oppressed. Recognizing that greater equality brings better living conditions for all which in turn allows for a better environmental impact (clean drinking water, clean air, adequate living spaces, access to health services, safety on the streets, access to education for all).
Brought all together, it makes for an environmental organization which also focuses on the social, cultural and economical statuses of the community they are working in.
What did I do there?
Tienda Zero Waste: The store provided zero waste local and handmade options to the city of Campeche, but also a vast choice of artisanal goods (handmade, no plastic, some utilizing used but clean fabrics, local materials). I helped every other afternoon and got the chance to chat with the girls working at the store, meet some producers, and interact with locals and tourists.
Coffee, cake, and conversation: Offered online or with some of La Maria’s employees, it is a chance for the participants to practice their English with native speakers.
Mercado Verde: A market offering green goods. It is the perfect chance to meet the producers in person, enjoy the food provided by the pop-up café, take a swim in the pool, and buy environmentally friendly goods. Located at El Refugio Xaman Ek (see below for info).
Club Exploradores Verde : During the Green Market, volunteers like myself, organize activities for children related to things such as the environment, exploring and first aid. Bilingual.
El Refugio Xaman Ek: An animal refuge, but also the volunteer housing, the animal rescue center had, when I was there, three pigs (one probably pregnant, time will tell), three goats, three horses, three chickens, three “survivors”(goose, duck and turkey), and lots of dogs.
El Campanario: An agroforestry garden/farm filled with local plants and trees. I had my own section which is now in the care of sweet Crystal!
Farm to Table: Event held once a month where a local chef cooks with local ingredients (some of them from the Campanario) and offers guests a chance to savour delicious dishes. Held at the Refugio. I attended the Day of the Dead themed event in October. Delicious and informative!
Yes! The organization also works in journalism so I had the opportunity to write an article on a Belgian filmmaker. It is not out yet but you can reach out to me if you’d like to read it, and I will send the link to you when it’s available. He won the best cinematography at the Equinox Mountain Environmental Film Festival that had just been presented. Loved doing it, the experience was incredibly humbling.
I got to try different recipes with Doña Isabel on our Wednesday lunch/Spanish class which I will be bringing home with me and sharing with everyone!
The big thinker behind this organization also has a spot as the Latin America correspondent on talkRadio. Take a listen here.
They also work with different NGOs and individuals around the world and are proponents of unexploring where travel shifts into a slow and humble exploration of unknown territories (meaning more or less left alone by industrial development). They call these journeys and I’m excited to partake in one soon (to find out which one, you’ll have to wait and see).
What do I think about my time there?
For one, it was very unsettling in the beginning. The first week was mostly spent gardening and doing farm work, two things I had done very little prior and that I was now doing a lot of. I prevailed though and mustered my experiences of cleaning public bathrooms and emptying blocked, coffee- and milk-filled drains. I was also living with seven other people and that always takes adjusting.
Then, I gained a basic understanding of the organization and how it worked. I got to know the people around me. They were pretty cool 😎. I started getting the opportunities to partake in some of the different events that Ninth Wave organizes. I got to ask my burning questions from back in CEGEP. I saw the gaps in my current knowledge and got to practice more grilling. I shared good times with the girls at the tienda and the people back at the Refugio. I got cuddles from puppies and horsies.
Would I do it again? Yes. I started getting a grasp on my interests in international development, law and economics. I touched on many subjects that will help me in my next volunteering placement (for that one too, you’ll have to keep reading). I made great friends too! I had the opportunity to appreciate the Day of the Dead in a community of people I knew.
So what’s next? Well, definitely more exploring, more eating and more questions (Parents, I got the ‘oh no, not more questions!’ during my placement). I’ll be travelling around Central America and will be learning new skills.
Like always, keep on reading my random and dramatic posts whenever they appear, I love you for it fam!
Bonus content: Day of the Dead ruins exploration!