A Summer at En Vía
We are delighted to share this blog, sent to us by Gabrielle Newell, who spent the summer of 2013, volunteering with Fundación En Vía.
The 10 weeks I spent volunteering with Fundación En Vía were everything I hoped they would be! By the end of time with En Vía, I had improved my Spanish, come to understand the different dimensions of microfinance, formed invaluable friendships with the other volunteers and community members, and felt that I made a substantive contribution to a truly inspiring organization.
On my very first day my supervisor met with me for an extensive conversation in which we identified what I hoped to gain from the experience, as well as discussed some of the guiding tenants of En Vía. It was clear from my very first day that the En Vía staff conduct their work thoughtfully – aware that responsible tourism faces a unique set of challenges and concerns – and they direct that same care and consideration to their volunteers. All of the En Vía staff and fellow volunteers were actively welcoming, going so far as to help me navigate the markets, inviting me out with their friends, and eventually becoming some of my closest friends during my time in Oaxaca.
From the start I felt I was a part of the organization and contributing. During my time with En Vía I led tours to the surrounding communities during which time I had the opportunity to build relationships with the women receiving loans from En Vía, develop a personal connections to the towns outside of the main city of Oaxaca, and meet and learn from the travelers who joined us for tours.
In addition, I helped teach the English and internet classes. This was yet another opportunity to explore the towns around the main city, as well as to connect with some of members of those communities. On the days when I volunteered in the main office in Oaxaca city, it was an extremely pleasant work environment. While En Vía has an office within one of the buildings of the Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca, we usually chose to work in one of the covered patios in the gardens of the beautiful ICO property.
One concern I have had with other volunteer experiences is that as a volunteer, I don’t feel like I’m contributing because there isn’t infrastructure in place to put volunteers to work. This was absolutely not the case with En Vía – they were very organized, especially with their volunteers. Every day I volunteered I felt confident there was varied and necessary work for me to do – while I was there for only a short time, I felt as if I contributed to the work of this truly special organization, and for that, I am grateful.
I highly recommend volunteering with En Vía! Not only is it an opportunity to contribute to an innovative organization run by thoughtful, welcoming people in one of the most glorious places in the world, but because as a volunteer, you are needed and able to contribute.
Gabrielle is currently studying International Studies and Human Rights at the University of Chicago. After first traveling to Oaxaca on a University study abroad program, she then returned for the summer of 2013 and continues to fantasize about going back!
If you have a story to tell about volunteering in Oaxaca, please get in touch with us at [email protected] We would love to here from you!