Post Takeaways: Deciding to accept a full-time position at the organization you volunteered for should be taken after considering both practical and emotional aspects.
I am back with another blog about my experience here at IPBio- Biodiversity Research Institute in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. About a month ago I received some wonderful news: IPBio offered me a staff position. As of next month I will no longer be a volunteer, my formal title will be Volunteer and Communications Coordinator. I was thrilled by this news as I found my paradise here at IPBio and really wanted to stay on. I wanted to write about this topic as I am sure there are many people out there, like me, who have volunteered and been shattered by the thought of leaving an organization because requiring a job to survive came knocking on realities door. I hope this can offer some hope to others.
But first, some word of caution so this isn’t misinterpreted. Volunteering by no means implies you should expect a job after. Moreover, I don’t want to make this to seem like a simple process as it took: a lot of hard work; a painful visa process and some real changes to my living standards, which I want to go through in this blog.
I have been volunteering at IPBio for 5 months now. When I arrived there was no formal volunteer program. No program structure, documentation, information packages, promotion, website ads, blogs, Facebook campaigns or volunteer coordinator. Now all of this is organized and we have over 5 applications a week from volunteers from all walks of life. I have also managed to secure a grant from Wildlife Acoustics for biological audio recording equipment which arrived last week and I managed to fundraise 5,000 US dollars for an environmental education program called Young Biodiversity Artists. I brought tangible results to the organization which allowed me to clearly show the value of keeping me on. Keep in mind, I was brought on as a volunteer to help them raise the 5,000 USD for the education program. That was it. All the rest was my own initiative. No one told me to write grants or set up the volunteer program, I just did it (passing it by management to see if they had any objections of course).
2.Painful Visa Process
I will not go into detail but it was painful. This may be different if you are in another country but for me it was PAINFUL.
Now this is an interesting one. My friends always said, so you want to go and be dirt poor basically? Well, let me put it to you like this: I am 24 and I will be renting a 2 floor house for myself with a beautiful view of the river in the middle of the Atlantic Forest; I have enough money to eat and drink (including 2-3 Chilean bottles of wine a week); I can go out to do trips on the weekend to caves or swim down the river; and I have enough money to travel back to Europe at least once a year.
Now, if that is dirt poor then you might be a bit spoiled. No, I don’t save but so what? I am 24! I can say without a doubt that my friends in London, Madrid and Montreal do not have the living standards I have here and they sure aren’t saving much money with high housing costs. Now the downside to money issue is this: here I make enough money to live very comfortably but if I want to go back to Europe or North America my currency has pretty much no value. For me this is not an issue as I have known I wanted to live in South America since I was about 16 years old so the point is mute. But it is true that if you come to work here for a couple of years and then try to go back, the money you do manage to save here may become close to nothing on your return.
Anyways, I have never been so happy in my life. It is a pleasure waking and actually wanting to go to work. It is a delight to do what I love every day of my life instead of only on the weekend. Dreams, tick. Instead of telling you about what my life is like here, I will let images do the talking: