One evening in March 2018, Mark Ash, a 60-something year old from Pennsylvania, was scrolling through his Facebook feed and saw a GivingWay post about volunteering with sea turtles with a GivingWay Group in Costa Rica, with Latin American Sea Turtles.
For Mark, the idea of volunteering with sea turtles seemed too good to be true. Mark has always had a special place in his heart for turtles, and it’s been a lifelong dream to work with them.
In fact, he’s even incorporated sea turtles into his beautiful wood carvings:
As soon as Mark saw the GivingWay Facebook post about volunteering with turtles, he called his wife, Michelle, over to show her. Knowing his special affinity for sea turtles, her response was immediate: “You gotta go“. Several years back, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Michelle herself had gotten into a truck and driven hundreds of miles to New Orleans to rescue dogs, so she knew how much this opportunity meant to Mark.
That night Mark did some research about GivingWay, reading user reviews, looking at the non-profits on the site, and applied to join the Costa Rica group that same night!
Mark goes to Costa Rica
One month later, a very excited Mark boarded a plane to Costa Rica to join the rest of the GivingWay Group at Latin American Sea Turtles.
On the very first night there, Mark joined Anna Safryghin (blog post by Anna coming soon!) on the nightly beach patrol. The purpose of the beach patrol is to search for nesting mothers, and then relocate the nests to protect from poachers, predators (like crabs and vultures), and natural elements (like erosion and tide).
The beach patrols aren’t easy – walking up to 12 kms on sand, the dark, can be challenging for anyone. But Mark pushed through, and was rewarded when, towards the end of the patrol, they found a nesting sea turtle!
The Sea Turtle Egg Hatchery
The next day, Mark was on Hatchery Duty.
The hatchery is where eggs are relocated until they hatch. Every year the hatchery has to be rebuilt in a different location (due to soil contamination).
Volunteers who are on Hatchery Duty need to make sure the eggs are safe from crabs and other predators. Mark took advantage of the time to rest a bit, while making sure nothing disturbed the eggs.
Making the Best of a Difficult Situation
After successfully completing two 10kms patrols (!), Mark participated in another 12km beach patrol, which he also completed without much trouble. After next 12k however, he woke up to find his hip wasn’t at all happy about the workout.
Mark decided to speak to Nicki, LAST’s amazing volunteer coordinator.
They decided that Mark would be the responsible for the hatchery. Mark worked a day shift of 2 hours, and a night shift of 4 hours. He also relieved anybody working in the hatchery for their meal times.
By the end of the trip, Mark was crowned King of the Hatchery!
Unlikely Friendships While Protecting Sea Turtles
Mark also became close to several people in the group, including Mathius from Norway. “Who would have thought that an old American guy like me would become such close friends with a hippie from Norway?”
Since returning to the US, Mark has remained in contact with Nicki, Mathius, the team here at GivingWay, as well as several other people from the GivingWay Group of volunteers.
Here’s what Nicki had to say about Mark:
Even though Mark was out of his normal comfort zone, he was determined to see a turtle! He was so incredibly passionate about the project , and he continues to support us from overseas. In fact he is planning a return next year!”
We are so thrilled to have brought Mark and LAST together!
Questions for Mark? Feel free to contact him via the GivingWay site.