Volunteering in Columbia

By Peter Hopkins

Colombia is a fantastic country! I highly recommend it. I also recommend taking a break from studying to do something different. Thanks to the SPLAS department I was able to live and work in an orphanage for three and a bit months and it was amazing! The kids were great fun and living with them day to day talking all the time really helped me to improve my Spanish! Having a bursary from King’s is well worth applying for as well. For me it meant that I could do some fun things with the kids like, for example buy some musical instruments for the house and take them to see the football, which was amazing! In Colombia there are fans who dance and sing continuously for the full 90 minutes!

Having a bursary also allowed me to travel more than I would have otherwise. We took some of the teenagers to help out with a medical brigade in a poor town, working with people who’d been displaced by the Colombian conflict. We were able to take more teenagers than planned because I could contribute towards the travel costs out of my bursary money. We had a really great time and a tangible impact on that community!

Another experience I’ll never forget is another medical brigade we did, but this time with a smaller team, and that was to the Wayuu tribe in the far northeast of the country. We slept in hammocks under a canopy of dry cactus and beautifully clear stars, it was really amazing. We got the chance to help the people there as well, they live in a desert so they’re pretty short on food and water. The team I was working with are planning on going back with some engineers later this year to drill a well!

I got the chance to be a bit of a tourist at the end of my trip, although having lived in the country was helpful for knowing how to be a bit savvy and not get ripped off! There is so much to do in some of these South American countries! There is even good surf! Which I got to enjoy on the Caribbean coast. Colombia is great, and I get the impression that some of the surrounding countries are similar! The people are friendly, the food is great (especially if you like rice, beans and tropical fruit) and the landscapes are so varied and beautiful, from desert, to salt flats, to the humongous Andes, to glorious beaches and tropical jungle. Plus, it’s also a part of the world where you can really make a difference! For anyone planning a year abroad it’s definitely worth considering!

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