With mosquito repellent and travel documentation crossed off her list, Richmond resident Kelsey Lawrence is ready to pack her suitcase for a three-week volunteering trip to Costa Rica.
The 20-year-old found a placement in a local turtle conservation program through International Volunteer HQ, an online-based volunteer organization.
“I want to make a difference somewhere, in a small or big way. And when I found this program, I decided that was it for me,” Lawrence said, a graduate of McRoberts secondary.
Starting Monday, she will spend her time performing night patrols on the beach, searching and weighing eggs and building hatcheries to protect endangered species of sea turtles.
The turtle conservation program has become quite popular, said Chelsea Green — program coordinator at IVHQ — stating animal care and the coastal Costa Rican area appeal to many.
Moreover, the program “is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a special part of nature.”
For Lawrence, securing the reproduction of sea turtles also seemed “like a good place to start something new” since she already volunteered in a Mexican orphanage two years ago.
“I got attached to the kids I met, which made it really hard to leave. I don’t want to feel like I’m abandoning anybody, so working with turtles seemed easier,” she said.
Nevertheless, the young volunteer raves about the benefits of volunteering abroad.
“It’s a way of travelling that is more worthwhile. Instead of just stopping by and taking pictures, you have the chance to change something while you’re there,” she said.
Regardless of their age — they range from 18 to 85 years old — volunteers indeed gain a great deal from their experience, according to Green.
“They often learn just as much from the (host) community as the community does from them,” she said.
“In many cases it’s also an eye-opener; because the standard of living is different, volunteers realize what they take for granted in their daily lives.”
Although Lawrence expects to have another mind-expanding adventure, it comes at a price. Her costs include the program fees, airfare, travel insurance and vaccinations.
“It was important to me to pay for it myself, so I worked at a summer camp and have been babysitting to raise money,” she said.
She also put aside some savings for adventurous activities, including ziplining through the rain forest, to make the most of her stay.
And with the travel bug under her skin, Lawrence is eager to continue discovering the world.
“Once I get back, I’ll get ready for college again and start planning my next trip, to wherever that may be,” she said.