This summer I was fortunate enough to be able to spend two weeks volunteering on a conservation project in the Valencia region. The accommodation and transport was organised by Voluns while the volunteering itself was managed by an NGO called Acció Ecologista Agró. I was drawn to this programme due to its strong focus on environmental preservation and the use of sustainable practices.
Prior to arriving I was concerned about potential language barriers between myself and the other volunteers because the programme required a basic level of Spanish. Having never studied Spanish, I was extremely worried that the little Spanish I knew would not be enough for me to get by. Luckily, I managed to communicate with the majority of people I met, and even made lasting friends and connections.
I have only included the most interesting things I learned in this blog due to the wide ranging and informative nature of the programme. The majority of the volunteering was carried out in the Albufera natural park where the NGO is based. Every day was non-stop, even day one which required us to collect hundreds of seeds under the instruction one of the natural park managers. It was certainly a full-on initiation! Although it was difficult work, we were driven by the knowledge that the seeds would be used for restorative purposes.
Day two entailed more exciting sights as we collected rubbish from the wetland areas in Albufera via a traditional sailing boat. The purpose of this being to stop rubbish from reaching the ocean. The rubbish collected was counted and recorded so that the NGO could keep the data and report it to the government. I was astounded by both the beauty and importance of the wetlands and the carelessness of those that contributed to the vast amount of rubbish that we collected.
Perhaps my favourite experience was working on the Albufera rice farm. It was a privilege to work in such a picturesque landscape and practice the traditional way of organic rice farming. As the rice was organic the weeding of invasive species has to be done by hand while barefoot in the fields. This required great determination due to the heat and intense physical nature of weeding such a large area. Despite the challenging nature of this work I found the experience extremely rewarding as the progress we had made was clear by the end.
In the last week, we focused on local wildlife, specifically turtles. We laid traps to catch invasive species such as American crabs in order to protect local ones. We built and laid turtle nets around the wetland areas with the intention of finding and recording the different species in order to monitor numbers. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and owe many thanks to the Go Abroad Fund for enabling me to experience all that I did.