Based on the questions I have received so far, here are few FAQs:
1) Yes, I will be going with you. I will lead the trip with local support provided by Seeds of Learning (SOL).
2) Accommodation will be in private homes rented by SOL. We will have the whole house - this is not a family stay.
3) A typical work day starts early with breakfast, then work from about 8:00 - 1:00, Then lunch and a rest. Afternoon may be an excursion or a visit with community members where we hope to do future projects.
4) Our hosts from Seeds of Learning (SOL) will meet us at the airport, host and transport us throughout the week. They do this a lot and have things well organized.
5) The cost is typically around $2500 per person (Airfare, accommodation, local transport and most food). There are few incidentals other than alcoholic drinks and shopping at the craft market. A significant portion of the amount is eligible for a charitable tax receipt. Payment will be due about a month before we travel. Hosting service trips is a key funding source for SOL. Note that this amount is significantly less than some of the high profile trips from organizations where a similar itinerary would start at $3300.
6) Fundraising: Winds of Change funded over $45,000 of projects in Nicaragua in 2017. While this project does not require additional funding, the project we planned in Nicaragua still requires some additional funding in the range of $12,500. We would like to continue to support this project even though we cannot travel there to volunteer. The work will be carried out by local volunteers, if funding for materials can be provided.
7) There are several flight options, but no direct flight to Merida from Toronto. My recommended option is to fly Air Canada Merida via Houston. We depart Toronto at 2:05 pm and arrive in Merida at 8:14 pm. We likely leave Merida November 11th @ 8:15 am arriving in Toronto at 4:24 pm.
8) We will have translators with us at all times, but is STRONGLY encourage you to pick up a little Spanish in advance. It helps a lot and makes things more fun.
9) This trip is suitable for all ages. We expect to have a number of families with teenagers 13 - 17 years old, as well as some recent retirees. We find that multigenerational groups are the most fun. I've taken my kids twice and they LOVED it.
10) Ideally we will firm up the team by the end of August. We already have an expression of interest from seven people, so please let me know if you are interested. firstname.lastname@example.org
Winds of Change:
Dates: November 4 - 11th, 2018
# Volunteers: (Estimated) 20
Leaders: Rob Scott
Location of Project: Yucatan, Mexico
In light of continued challenges in Nicaragua we will be shifting our focus of our next Winds of Change service trip to the Yucatan area of Mexico. The NGO partner we work with in Nicaragua, Seeds of Learning (SOL), has identified a project well suited to our trip in November - the refurbishment and repair of a small school in a Mayan community in need of assistance. We will also be enjoying time in Merida, the capital of the region, and immersing ourselves in Mayan culture.
Seeds of Learning is excited to have partnered with the Cielo Foundation to help grow their educational programming in two rural communities, Teabo and Chumayel. They have started to host three work groups this summer.
Teabo, (population of 6,000) and Chumayel (population of 3,500) are Mayan communities that each has three primary schools. Volunteers have a unique opportunity to live in the community of Teabo, located 1.5 hour drive from Merida, the capital city of Yucatan, Mexico and join this cross cultural experience.
Service and Education
SOL volunteers will have the opportunity to refurbish and/or paint a school in a community that is approximately 30-45 minutes from Teabo. Volunteers will likely work 5 days per week on the school in the morning, and then have afternoon/evening cultural activities to learn more about the region, it’s people, history, livelihoods, and more.
SOL volunteers will live in 2-3 homes (near to one another) that SOL will be renting (not homestays) and eating at a restaurant that is walking distance from both the homes as well as the main town plaza. Volunteers will sleep in hammocks or mattresses on the floor. Most everyone in the community sleeps in hammocks, as this is a deeply embedded tradition for the Mayan people of Yucatan. All homes are built with multiple hooks in the walls to hang 4-6 large hammocks in each room.
Safety and SOL Supervision
Merida is able to boast being the safest city in all of Mexico. The US State Dept. classifies Merida at a level 2. Smarter Traveler lists Merida as one of the 13 safest places for travellers in Mexico.
SOL staff will be hosting volunteer groups for the duration of their stay in Mexico. SOL will have experienced staff as well as community members and local government support; SOL volunteers will be in safe hands.
Merida and Weekend Excursion
Volunteer groups will also spend 1-2 days based out of Merida, the capital city. In Merida they will find an abundance of rich culture, history, music, art and the very unique and famous cuisine of the Yucatan that they will be able to enjoy. In addition, there will be exciting opportunities to see and experience the natural beauty of the surrounding areas. The presence of the Mayan culture is strong and influential in all parts of the local culture and includes not only present day Mayan culture but also historic Mayan ruins and traditions that have survived over hundreds of years. A long history of European colonization is also reflected deeply in this city and the architecture of the many churches, buildings, plazas and homes offers a rich history and culture to learn about.
Merida was the Culture Capital of the North American Continent in the year 2000. At the end of 2010, Merida was chosen by the United Nations to join the ranks of the 100 Cities of Peace in the world. Merida was declared American Capital of Culture for 2017. The aim of the title is to promote the uniqueness of specific American cities whose artistic capitals stand out internationally. The designation is part of the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals project, accredited by the Organization of American States and recognized by parliaments in Europe and Latin America.
Comments from previous trips...
I wanted to send my sincere thanks to everyone for such a special week.
Rob, I am so grateful to you for pulling together such an incredible group of people and all the amazing “extras” on the trip. From the volcano, the magical pool, the community visits, that bakery!!, poker nights, hearing about the revolution, Masaya, Granada, etc. It was such an incredible mix of inspiring people, beautiful surroundings and the very best of the human spirit.
That was an amazing experience. Thanks for providing me with the opportunity to really have my eyes opened.
With regards to your request for feedback…
· What I liked:
o Working on the project was amazing
o Interacting with people in the community was awesome
o Volcano and the fort/prison was really special
o The team was great; especially the representatives from SOL
o Accommodations were very nice
o The kids! The kids! The kids! The expressions on their faces; watching them play…
o The baseball game…
·Thanks again Rob! That was an absolutely fantastic experience.