I can now finally reveal that I won the Green & Blacks competition to find volunteers to travel to the Dominican Republic to take part in a Community Development Programme aimed at supporting Cocoa Farmers.
I spotted the competition on twitter and my attention was immediately piqued by the mention of Community Development. My Masters degree is concerned with development and the environment and I specialised in tourism and development. I am passionate about the potential Community Development programmes have for sustainably meeting the needs of local people throughout developing countries.
And so, I duly filled out the application form, on my birthday actually, emailed it in and then put it out of mind. I never imagined I would be shortlisted, let alone win…
A week later I was informed that I had made it to the final 15 out of hundreds of applicants and was through to the telephone interview stage. Unfortunately, I was struck down with acute sinusitis the week of the interviews and so through my medicated haze I chatted to Raleigh International, who are facilitating the expedition, wary of my level of coherence.
A week later I received the phone call to congratulate me on my win: Green & Blacks wanted to take me to the Dominican Republic! Hoorah!
I was sworn to online secrecy until the training weekend, and have agonised over keeping it to myself, and to be honest the reality of it seemed unreal. That is until I travelled up to London on Saturday at the break of dawn to meet with Green & Blacks, Raleigh International and the rest of the UK team. I have now met with the other 4 competition winners from the UK, four lovely lads, and we will be met by 5 US competition winners at the airport.
(The expedition team from the UK)
Our team is charged with the mission of connecting 3 villages to clean, safe running water. A natural source has been located and we will be digging trenches and laying pipes to connect this source to communities who are currently using risky and possibly contaminated water from wells that needed to be collected on a continual basis.
We will be staying with the local community in their homes and working in conjunction with Conacado, the cooperative of Cocoa Farmers in the Dominican Republic.This is an incredible experience where we have the chance to make a positive difference to these communities as well as learning about their way of life. As an Anthropologist I am thrilled to be able to spend time living and working in rural Dominican Republic – I am certain that there will be some eye-opening experiences to be had.
The Countdown Begins
For 8 hours a day, for 10 days in 28C plus temperatures, and tropical humidity I will be digging. A lot. Now for those of you who know me well will understand what a tremendous challenge is ahead for me. Physical activity is not really my strongest point. My life of late has been rather sedentary and computer-bound. And since meeting my boyfriend my weight has grown a little.
And so, the challenge begins now. I have 5 weeks to get my body in shape and prepared for the hard work this expedition requires. There are many people depending on me and I have committed to working with a team of amazing volunteers and working for nearly 2000 community members whose lives will change forever when they gain running water to their villages.
I need a plan and I need support. This is going to be tough and I need to stay focused. I might need some encouragement!
Expect blog updates on my expedition preparation and progress. I am now super excited for the challenge and adventure ahead!