One of the most important aspects of the ICS volunteer programme is the interaction between people of different nationalities and cultures. To achieve this amongst the volunteers, most international programmes have both international and national volunteers. Here in Honduras, however, only international volunteers have taken part in the programme up until now, but during this cycle we have been lucky enough to have had two national volunteers join the programme. The intention is that with each subsequent cycle of volunteers more national volunteers will join the programme until there are an equal number of national and international volunteers. Through the national volunteers we hope to raise awareness in the local community of the opportunities offered by the ICS programme: national volunteers have the chance to experience many of the hugely beneficial and enjoyable opportunities which come alongside volunteering as part of the ICS programme, whilst providing a great deal of support of the international volunteers as a link to the local community and culture.
The national volunteer that we have been working alongside is Waleska Rodriguez. She is 17 years old and currently studying towards becoming a nurse. Despite being thrown in at the deep end, having to balance her volunteer responsibilities with her studies, and facing challenges along the way, we have found her an invaluable support to the group.
Waleska became aware of the opportunities with ICS and Progressio through the cooperative COOMUPL that our group is working with. Her family has membership to the cooperative and she came recommended by them as a volunteer. She hoped that taking part in the programme would help to broaden her horizons, and wanted the experience of working alongside volunteers from another country. She has found some parts of the project difficult, with the language barrier being particularly challenging. However she says that the international volunteers have made a great deal of effort with limited Spanish – we have always been able to say what we mean somehow!
As Waleska has to dedicate a lot of her time to her studies, her main support of the group has been in the mural project, as well as working at the Children’s Home and helping the team to translate blogs into Spanish for Progressio Latina. She was invaluable when it came to designing a mural about Honduran history and culture, and was also able to share some of her knowledge as a nurse teaching the children at the Children’s Home about the importance of first aid and hygiene.
The experience of being a national volunteer has given Waleska a lot in return for her efforts as a vital part of the group. She feels as though it will give her more opportunities in the future and has enjoyed working in a team with other young people from a different country, learning from them and also teaching. In particular this exchange of skills has been through language, with the volunteers teaching one another Spanish and English: Waleska has been working hard to improve her English, and she is determined to learn more in the future. Waleska also expressed her support for the activities in which Progressio engages in – from the work in the field supporting female members of local cooperatives, to the mural in a local school, to the work in the Children’s Home – as very important and beneficial to the local community, saying that it is important that the work of Progressio can continue. We all hope that over the coming cycles of volunteers more national volunteers can join the programme and share more of their experiences with the international volunteers supporting the work of Progressio in Honduras. As a group we would like to thank Waleska for all of her hard work and support: muchas gracias Waleska!
Blog by Waleska Rodriguez and Peter Teasdale
Photo by Alice Pepper