Calling all Volunteers – Farm, Community, Environment and Pastries!

Core mission of Playa Viva is to “Create Meaningful Community.”  Volunteers are becoming a larger and larger part of the Playa Viva community. We currently are at maximum capacity with 6 volunteers spending most of this fall with us.  Where do volunteers come from, how do they find us, what do they do and what are we looking for from volunteers?

IMG_0804Where do they come from?  We have volunteers from all over the world. Mostly from North America and Europe. We have had volunteers from the US, Canada and Mexico as well as Germany, Denmark, Spain, Belgium and most recently Australia and New Zealand.  We ask that volunteers stay for a minimum of one month but some have stayed for 3 months.

How do they find us? The largest source of volunteers either come via referral from guests or via voluntoursim websites.  These websites include WWOOF Mexico and WorkAway.info. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF, /ˈwʊf/), or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is a loose network of national organisations that facilitate placement of volunteers on organic farms.  These two websites contribute the bulk of volunteers who come to work on an organic farm to learn and apply techniques of permaculture.

What do they do?  Volunteers are asked to work a split shift. In the AM, they work on the farm  and in the afternoon they work on a community service or other project of their design. Farm work varies from planting seeds, weeding and tending the garden. It also includes other permaculture related projects in conservation, restoration and general landscape management.  These types of work have included mangrove restoration, keyline water projects, forest restoration, maintaining trails or working to build a chicken coop, make organic fertilizers, etc.  The afternoon projects vary from cooking in the Playa Viva kitchen to helping out in the local library. The volunteers have self-organized and developed their own Volunteer Manual and Orientation Guide to assist incoming volunteers to know what to expect, provide a list of viable projects and prepare them for their stay in Juluchuca.  Volunteers stay in “la Casita Blanca” (the White House) which is a 3 bedroom humble home we rent for volunteers in the town of Juluchuca.

What are we looking for from volunteers? We look for travelers who want more than the “been there, done that, seen that” experience. We are finding travelers of all ages, from those right out of high school to retires and everything in between who want to live “in a community and give back.”  They usually love Mexico, enjoy being near and on the beach, are aligned with Playa Viva’s values for sustainability and regeneration and want to learn and giveback at the same time.  For example, we had a nurse from Copenhagen stay over a month and work in the health clinic. She spearheaded a project to improve the roof of the health clinic. Another volunteer organized guests to paint the local kindergarten working side by side with members of the local community.  We have had local Mexican youth who want to learn more about farming and permaculture come and stay and work on the farm while helping to remodel the local library.

If you are interested in volunteering at Playa Viva, go to this link and just follow the directions.  We have limited space as the Casa Blanca only holds 6 people, but if you are committed to “Creating Meaningful Community” and the other core values of Playa Viva, please apply to volunteer with us.  Special note: We are looking for a pastry / dessert chef to volunteer with us in the kitchen and cross train with our kitchen staff .

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A Little Bit Helps Make a HUGE Difference in Small Communities

This blog post submitted by Debbie Greenberg – Volunteer at Playa Viva

A day at the kindergarten (March 13, 2014).

The parents at the local kindergarten in Juluchuca, Mexico have been working to renew the facilities, seeking funds from different sources to re-build the gate and the fence, paint the classroom and fix the leaking roof.

P1030157 A few weeks ago, the kindergarten parents mentioned their need for paint and rollers to Playa Viva’s General Manager, Julia Garcia.  Julia mentioned the need to Playa Viva guests Charles and Linda who had asked Julia how they could donate to and participate in a community project while on vacation – voluntourism.  Julia told Linda and Charles about the kindergarten and both generously agreed to buy the paint and equipment for the project, as well as offered to help paint.

On Thursday, March 13, 2014, a group from Playa Viva including Charles,  Linda, Fernando and I (two WWOOF volunteers at Playa Viva) plus Miguel (the newest team member at Playa Viva) all went to the kindergarten in Juluchuca to paint! When we arrived a lot of the kindergarten parents were already scraping rough patches of old paint off the walls and completing other pre-painting preparations. Everyone pitched in wherever they could, or with whatever tool was at hand—if you found a free broom, you swept walls or window sills!
The “kinder” (“keen-dare”), as it’s called here, has one classroom for 3-year-olds and another that is divided between the 4- and 5-year-olds. The concrete walls separating the classrooms and administrative office go up to the roof, whereas the outer walls are solid concrete to about 4 ft. high —in other words, they are open air (see photos). There is a large roofed patio (mostly roofed—as the kinder is trying to raise money to complete the roofing for the patio) and a shaded play area with playground equipment. This particular Thursday the children were off school so it was a perfect day for the painting project to be completed.

After a bit, the work hit its stride and began to advance quickly. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to sand down all the old paint, so there were patches where the wall or ceiling would peel (or crumble!) when you ran your roller over it, but little by little the ceilings became freshly white and the walls became sky blue. Teachers, parents, Playa Viva guests, Playa Viva staff and

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volunteers were all working together – diverse communities coming together to make one.

At about 12:30 some of the women told us it was time to come eat—they had brought us plates of chicken with mole colorado and rice, as a way of thanking us for our help. During lunch we chatted about the school with a couple of the moms of children and with one of the teachers. They explained how difficult it is for them to get  funds needed to repair the school due to the slow Mexican government bureaucracy. They commented about how unbelievably fast they had been able to obtain assistance via Playa Viva and guests Charles and Linda —they had mentioned the project to Julia, and in just a short time they had paint, rollers, and even some more hands to help with the project execution.

When we asked how long it had been since the rooms had been painted, we got a surprising reply: it had only been about a year! One of the teachers then explained that every year, during the rainy season (June-September) the classrooms leak, and the paint gets ruined. They had applied for government funding to have the roof waterproofed, and were informed that funding was on its way…however, the latest news was that only a portion of the requested funds would probably arrive and not until July – just as the rainy season starts! That would clearly be too little too late to save the nice new paint job.

The teacher further explained that they had been told they would receive $3,000 Mexican pesos (about $250 U.S. dollars) for the project. Based on this level of funding the waterproofing would not be sufficient. They would have to adjust their project so the initial funds approved would be used to cover the highest point of the roof with a 5-year waterproofing product, with rest of the roof only getting a 3-year waterproofing.

After the lunch,  we all went back to painting (more detail work now) and helping them begin to move the classroom furnishings back into place. At least 20 parents were on hand, along with the teachers and principal, who thanked us again and gave us a round of applause for our help. We applauded their effort and determination in return.

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When we got back to Playa Viva, the other guests asked us about our morning and we told them all about it, including the conversation we’d had with the teacher over lunch at the kindergarten regarding the waterproofing of the roof. Later that evening, Playa Viva guests Sarah and Jim spoke with Julia about their wish to graciously donate the funds necessary to waterproof the entire roof so that it can be completed before the rainy season starts. I am quite touched by Sarah and Jim’s generosity. Julia will be checking to ensure that the waterproofing project is appropriately budgeted and the funds donated are efficiently used.   Thank you all for giving to the local kinder.

NOTE from Playa Viva Owners: The painting of the kinder is a perfect example of Playa Viva’s core values of Creating Meaningful Community and Transformative Experiences.  From a Social Impact perspective, we see our role as providing a platform for voluntourism and opening doors between guests and donors who in turn provide resources for specific community identified needs.  It is important to us that the community self-identify needs. Furthermore, that the community beneficiaries donate their time (labor) as well as their own form of giving (sharing of food) with the donors and volunteers who came from outside. Finally, we loved hearing about the regenerative nature of voluntourism and charity that spread from Linda and Charles (painting) to Sarah and Jim (waterproofing).  The result, we hope, is a better educational environment for children, a stronger community and an true cross-cultural exchange. If you are interested in donating to the kinder roof waterproofing project or to the Playa Viva Regenerative Trust to the local community – please click on this link to donate via our fiscal sponsor – the Ocean Foundation via the Friends of La Tortuga Viva fund. Thank you all.

Journey into a Community – WWOOFer/Nurse/Traveler/Organizer

This blog post contributed by Malene Jakobsen.

The ocean, nature, wildlife, mouthwatering food, friendship, insight in the Juluchucan way of life and a sense of being genuinely welcome and part of Playa Viva and the local community. These are just a few of the great experiences that I will take home with me after having spent a little over a month volunteering in the local health clinic in the village of Juluchuca. A project made possible through Playa Viva and their involvement with volunteers via the WWOOFing network.

My work as a volunteer in the health clinic has consisted of wound cleansing, injections, measuring blood pressure, blood sugar etc, and helping sort out the chaotic pharmacy. I’ve also had the privilege of carrying out a Pap smear and taking part in several educational meetings with the local women and their children. All of which have given me a unique opportunity of achieving insight in the life conditions of the inhabitants in the village, and of catching a glimpse of what challenges they are dealing with such as poverty, early teenage pregnancies and unemployment.

P1030141Another function of mine in the clinic has been being the person in charge of “the leaky roof project”. Together with the help of the kind guests and donors at Playa Viva we have managed to gather enough money for the materials for the construction of a new roof in the clinic, since the existing one was very leaky and would have resulted in serious problems with the coming rainy season during spring and summer.

The local board of health in the municipality of Petatlán is considering constructing a new and bigger health clinic in Juluchuca, but that is not definitely decided, and might take a couple of years before that becomes a reality.

The doctor and I have held several meetings with the most efficient decision makers in the village – the women, and we have together decided, that the best use of the money would be to have an aluminium construction build above the existing roof.
It has all along the process been crucial that the locals part take in the decisions and the work, and a representation of the locals has therefore agreed that every household in Juluchuca and surrounding villages contribute with 20 pesos each for paying for the manual labour needed, provided that the donations would pay for the materials.

The end result with the aluminium roofing has turned out to be a cheaper solution than first estimated and so a fund has been created for further possible improvements in the clinic, such as a new examination bed, an oxygen container and a manual resuscitator. All of which will be able to be used in a new clinic as well. This might be a little project for a future volunteer.

During my two months stay in Mexico I have all along felt more than welcome, both at Playa Viva, in the clinic, in the village and all along the pacific coast. I have been able to contribute in a small scale to the improvement of the facilities in local community and I have experienced a kindness, an interest and an openness towards me that has felt genuine and has been moving. And these have been some of the most important factors of making this work holiday/vacation one of my best journeys ever.