After a week of orientation we said farewell to the energetic city of San Salvador for the unknown environment of Nuevo Gualcho. The different ways of life we were eager to encounter were almost portrayed to us during our journey, various road-side stalls selling fruit showed us the reality of the struggle to generate an income. Stepping onto Gualcho ground, the sense of wanting to make a real difference was amongst us all. The stories of previous volunteers and their achievements has definitely provided us with the drive to develop their work in terms of eco-tourism and putting Nuevo Gualcho on the map. 

The long-awaited introduction to our own host families instantly created a mutual feeling within the group in terms of culture shock. Once I placed my bags in what will be my room for the next 10 weeks, I had the time to just sit down and take it all in. The happiness, unity and respect amongst all of the locals, despite their surroundings honestly puts everything into perspective. The way the people live here and how the community works as a whole is incredible. Yet with our influence, we can help it to develop even more. Over the past few days, we have gathered an understanding of the history of our surroundings, and also exactly what plans we have for this community to start to experience the tourism it deserves. 

In terms of the overall approach, the creativity we have witnessed has already been overwhelming. Construction, consisting of water bottles and waste, has created a promising location for a craft shop. This is exactly what we are hoping to achieve, attacking the problem of litter whilst also developing the place as a tourist destination. I can’t wait to get started. Seeing even a slight progression of opportunities within the area following on from our work would be unbelievable. There is definitely a desire within the group to get started and get closer to that feeling of accomplishment.

Ideas of how my personal input can be used to develop the lives of others during my stay here has definitely provided me with some bed-time thinking for the next few days. Excited is an understatement!

Written by ICS volunteer Phil Taylor