Calakmul, Campeche, summer 2017
» Check Ramón´s blog from Calakmul on our website
Ramón here, writting from Mexico City, the place where I was born and have lived all my life.
Many things I know about my home country, Mexico, come from the newspapers, books, and occassional trips with my family or friends.I studied Political Science here in the capital city, therefore I have some notions about the history and the current state of Mexico in its wide geography. Nevertheless, I’m also aware about the complexity of a diverse and broad country as Mexico. Therefore I think the best way to actually know and understand it is by actually travelling through it, knowing its dwellers, their issues and their preocupations, their dreams and their aspirations for a better life.
My mission as a volunteer with United Vision is to contribute to the well being of others. English, when properly used, is a tool with the potential to bring people toghether in a broad sense, for personal growth, and to achieve life goals for anybody who wants to reach for a wider part of the world. By teaching a foreign language I expect others may find their own purpose and use to it, so communication is not a barrier but an opportunity, expand the expectations of what they may achieve in life, or just to better understand their own position in this world.
I’m also sure there are many things I can learn about the ways people live in other lattitudes. I think this volunteership is the right step towards a personal growth, not only to know myself better, but also to be more open to new experiences, to new ways of seeing and living. This is an exchange, where I certainly will learn more than what I can give back, altough I want to deliver my best effort to motivate others into experiencing and embracing the possibilities of a whole new language.
Calakmul, Campeche, spring 2017
» Check Laura´s blog from Calakmul on our website
» Check or contact Laura via her private facebook https://www.facebook.com/laura.gilchrist.395
I’m Laura and I’m 24 years old. I studied Spanish and Art History at a small liberal arts college in South Carolina, my home state. Since landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina my junior year of college, Latin America has been an integral part of my life. I find it to be a ubiquitously open and yet mysterious corner of the universe. After graduating school, I ventured to Mexico where I volunteered on organic farms throughout the country. Eventually I made it down to Guatemala where I taught English in a vibrant community near the Mayan ruins of Tikal and not too far from Campeche where my journey picks up with United Vision I practice film photography and dream of returning to school to study it at some point.
Calakmul, Campeche, autumn, winter 2016/2017
» Check Kateřina´s blog from Calakmul on our website
» Check or contact Kateřina via her private blog http://unaduendecuriosa.blogspot.cz/
My roots are in the Czech Republic. That‘s where I was born and where I lived until the age of 18. Then my path continued to southern Spain where I had the chance to study Psychology at Universidad de Granada. During these four years I went to live one year in Vienna as Erasmus student and also a month and half in Ecuador while doing my internship there.
The time in Ecuador was a crucial moment when deciding what to do next after finishing my university studies. Since I didn’t really have a clue concerning the typical “what to do next”, I just knew I would like to go back somewhere in Latinoamérica. A friend of mine recommended this project to me and it seemed as a good way of starting the trip that I had on my mind. Mexico is a place that I wished to visit since long time ago as I am curious about the Mayan culture and the way the people there perceive life. I think that submerging oneself into the local community while also offering something back is a good way of going about it.
Calakmul, Campeche, summer and autumn 2016
» Check Leisan´s blog from Calakmul on our website
Hello! My name is Leisan. I’m 31 years old. I’ve graduated from Kazan Federal University, economic faculty and have a master degree in Public administration and municipal management. For about 14 years I’ve been working in financial sector for different banks. Two years ago I moved to Moscow. Since my childhood I like to travel very much. When I was 20 I visited United States of America, stayed about half a year in Chicago, Il. It was my first trip abroad and it completely transformed me and my life. I’ve decided to learn Spanish and to implement it in practice in Latin America. I also want to help to make this world better and people happier. Financial support for people suffering cancer is only a small contribution from my side. I feel that is not enough and I can do more to help people by applying my skills and experience I gained in the last years. That’s why I’m very happy to join the UV volunteers program and I’m sure that it will be a great experience for me.
Calakmul, Campeche, spring 2016
» Check Travis´s blog from Calakmul on our website
» Check or contact Travis via his private FB https://www.facebook.com/travis.mealand?fref=ts
A little bit about myself. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. When I was eighteen I enrolled at Western Washington University, which is located in Bellingham, Washington, just about a two hour drive north of Seattle. I lived in Bellingham and attended the University for four years. I graduated in the spring of 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and Spanish literature.
Since graduating for the University I have traveled much. Fall after graduation I went touring in Spain for a month. There I saw sights, enjoyed the beaches and walked 400 km along the Camino de Santiago. While in Europe I also visited Portugal, Italy, Greece and Turkey. After Europe, spontaneity carried me further along the globe to Thailand, India and Sri lanka. I returned to Seattle in the spring of 2015, and quickly decided I wanted to travel more, which is when I came into contact with United Vision. In January of this year I flew to Costa Rica to tour. I also visited Nicaragua and Panama, but would soon catch a flight to Mexico from San Jose, to begin my work here in Xpujil teaching English.
Temozón Sur, Yucatán, spring 2016
» Check Petra´s blog from Temozón Sur on our website
Hi! My name is Petra and I am 21 years old. I am from Prague, where I study at Charles University, my specialization is Area studies. I studied at a Spanish high school so I have strong affinity with language, as well as the culture of Latin America. I love travelling and enjoying life.. Volunteering was a great option to combine this alongside doing something to help others. In the future I would love to help to improve relations between Czech Republic and Latin American countries.
Santa Rosa, Yucatán, spring and summer 2016
» Check Natalie´s blog from Santa Rosa on our website
I was so excited and grateful to discover that I had been successful for this opportunity and can’t wait to start in the new role, helping those in the community who wish to learn English as well as becoming proficient with Spanish, learning more about the Mexican and Mayan culture and being in one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen.
Calakmul, Campeche, autumn and winter 2015
» Check Monika´s blog from Calakmul on our website
Temozón Sur, Yucatán, autumn and winter 2015
Hi there! I’m Eric, and though you will get to know me as you go along in this site, here are some things about me I think are interesting: I am a photographer (great with B&W), Mexican, spider lover, artist, traveller, futurist, architecture fan and a great admirer of Mexican culture and its ancient civilizations that continue prevail and remain autochthonous, mainly the Tarahumara and the Mayan. By the way kaambesah means teacher in Mayan dialect.
In the next six months I will be volunteering as a full-time English teacher in the Mayan community of Temozon Sur in Yucatan, Mexico. I will teach in a primary and secondary school, also in the Hacienda of Temozon Sur and with people in the workshops that were developed by the organization I am working for; La Fundacion Haciendas del Mundo Maya (FHMM) and United Vision.
Santa Rosa, Yucatán, autumn and winter 2015
Temozón Sur, Yucatán, summer 2015
Calakmul, Campeche, summer 2015
Hello Everybody I am Mark Asmussen and am from Omaha, Nebraska in the USA. I recently finished a 6 month trip through Colombia, Ecuador, and Perú; where I fell in love the local culture, the local people, the wonders of being in a new land, and also the Spanish Language. Before my trip to South America, I worked for Union Pacific Railroad as a Buyer and went to school for a finance degree at Loyola University New Orleans. I am looking forward to teaching English in Calakmul for 2 months, and can’t wait to learn from everyone I meet, and get to share the love of learning another language with others. Looking forward to keeping everyone posted on this journey.
Santa Rosa, Yucatán, spring and summer 2015
Temozón Sur, Yucatán, spring 2015
Temozón Sur, Yucatán, autumn 2014
Calakmul, Campeche, summer 2014
Hi, my name is Cinthia Jimenez. I’m from Matamoros, Mexico and have lived part of my life in Texas as a student and recently as an accountant. I love languages and learning about other cultures and people. Since I was little I’ve participated in mission trips and was involved in community service and always knew I wanted to continue growing and helping other people in which ever way I could. I hope that in this trip I would teach and learn as much as is possible.
Calakmul, Campeche, spring 2014
My name is Kristyna, Tyna for short. Since I was a little girl, I always wanted to do something good and useful. Maybe it is because of all the books I have read or all the things my dad tough me or all those things which I had the privilege to have. I don’t know. But right now, it is my time to pay it forward. And here I am, in my second year of studies in Social work and humanitarian assistance. In three weeks time, I am going on my three months external internship to Mexico. This will be the first time I would be so far from my home, Czech Republic. I am pretty scared (as I am going on my own), but also excited. Finally, I am ready to discover all the adventurous world out there. I have created my blog onetinytraveler.tumblr.com in order to write about all the incredible adventures I will experience as well as about the everyday life of one tiny volunteer girl who finds herself on the other half of the world.
Calakmul, Campeche, autumn 2013
Hi, my name is Ruth and I am from London, England. I like cooking, going to the cinema, and socialising with friends. I also like travelling and learning languages, which is why I decided to spend six months in Mexico. So far I’m very glad I made this decision!
Coatepec, Veracruz, autumn 2013
Zuzana and Hedvika
Calakmul, Campeche, summer 2013
We generally assessed our mission in Calakmul as positive and beneficial for both the local community and for us. It probably did not happened a substantial development or major changes in the community Valentín Gómez Farías and its surroundings, where we worked, but we left almost two to three months of work that has had a positive impact. Of course it depended much more on the local people than on us, whether they learned something or not, as motivation played a very important role. Some of them, especially children , did not benefited a lot of English, but on the other hand, we tried to pleased their life in the community, which is otherwise do not vary a lot, and show them that there are other nationalities than Mexicans. We also strongly believe that adults, who had the motivation, now control basic conversation in English. It took them about 5 months, but regarding to the fact, that most of them are working, having a child or educate themselves in other sector and thus do not have so much time for working on homeworks requested by the teacher, makes us excited and we are convinced that the this project is worth to continue. In terms of the development of our personality, this experience has undeniably grown the perception of different cultures and global overview, deepen our independence (for instance language barrier ) or the ability to transmit information and knowledge, and in addition we learned more patience and the proper use of the motto ” no stress ”
Eva and Jakub
Calakmul, Campeche, summer 2013
Voluntary mission in Mexico in the region of Calakmul1 was my first voluntary experience that far from my country. Now I hope it’s not the last one. As a graduated philosopher and cultural anthropologist I was missing a contact with an “extraneous” culture. The possibility to teach English in small villages of Yucatan was a perfect opportunity how to put together what is helpful and interesting. The stay in the different environment enriched me with a new dimension. It moved me personally as well as professionally.
Before the departure
Before the departure I was looking for the villages, where we had to teach and I didn’t even manage to find them. I was able to read from the map that we will teach in the area of a tropical forest and Mayan ruins. Imagination was working on 200%. I had many infantile projections of wild jungle and solitary. I was scared of the unknown and I was looking forward to live out of civilization at the same time. However, none of it came true. Ejido2 Valentín Gómez Farías3 lies on the edge of Calakmul Biosphere Reserve4, but at the same time lies next to the state highway 186. You were with one leg in the jungle and with the second one on the road where were riding many cars and trucks. I was disenchanted. Anyway I got used to this compromise after few days. To the forest it was just hundreds steps and necessary things were handy. The fear was unreasonable. In the “hotel” was access to the internet; in the village were several stores and two shops with beer. It’s an important commodity for the Czechs in the unbearable heat that is ruling in Calakmul in summer. I felt like a first-hand witness of inevitable human colonization and globalization in wilderness.
We were with Evka the first voluntaries in Calakmul and no one knew how everything will work. Fortunately we had a great co-worker Noé in VGF, who prepared a ground for teaching and who helped us in many aspects. Concerning my readiness for teaching, before we left I had a steady knowledge of English, I had a few experience with teaching a foreign language and I studied Spanish for a year and half. I was afraid, how I’ll manage the lessons of foreign language in foreign language in foreign country. In the beginning we were giving the lessons together with Evka to help each of other, when one of us didn’t know something, and to discover our possibilities. After few days we gained some self-confidence and we started to teach separately. We managed to lead the lessons even with the basics of Spanish. With passing weeks the knowledge of Spanish was improving and I was getting more certain. But it cost a lot of effort and the progress was gradual.
In total we were teaching ten groups two times a week, from children 6-10 years, adolescents 11-14 years to adults 15-†. I was taking care of five groups in four ejidos. In VGF I was teaching adolescents and then the employees from our hosting organization Productores Forestales de Calakmul5. They were the worst students, because they didn’t attend the lessons! Despite their bad studying morale, we made friends with some of them. They had a lot of work, so I understood it, but it was a pity they didn’t attend the classes when they could. After we had to cancel the adolescents6, I was given a group of children. In VGF was funny that we were teaching one month in our hotel. After one month next building was repaired and we moved classes there. To other villages I was going by bike to spare the expenses. In Becan7 I was teaching a group of children, in Xpujil8 and Zoh Laguna9 I had adults. In Becan, Xpujil and Zoh Laguna I ran the classes in so called “casa ejidal” (community building). Funny thing was that in Xpujil I was also giving lessons in the park or in the outside warehouse of tools. On the last mentioned place I was teaching after we had to cancel the group of adults because of the lack of students10. After some time I managed to open a new class for children at the house of one of the former student. It wasn’t important where the lesson is, but that it is.
I really liked teaching so I felt even bigger disappointment when some students gave up the classes. Noé assured me that sometimes there is a big drop-out, one student told me that I’m “the best teacher” :), anyway I doubted. What gave me strength were children. They were attending surprisingly regularly and in a big count. For this I liked them the most. Sometimes I would spank them, because they were fidgety and fretful. In spite of this I experienced with them the most fun.
Life in VGF
Concerning the life in VGF, in the beginning we didn’t familiarize with the “natives” too much. For the locals we were probably gringos11, although we are not from the USA The only person whom we could talk to was our co-worker Noé, because he was single person speaking English. Children were sometimes shouting on us some English garbles otherwise all of the people were speaking only Spanish. Even Mayan dialects were more spoken in the village than English. So the only choice, as would do any good researcher, was to study Spanish on our own daily and apply it in the practice of everyday communication. And it worked. Life in the countryside was very “tranquilo” (like on whole Yucatan), so we had enough space to rest and study; not only Spanish but local conditions as well. Nothing was happening in the village neither in the neighbourhood, so first month on our free Sundays we were visiting Mayan ruins lying near VGF. It was big pleasure that after month of social fasting we were invited by some of our students for dinner. We started to meet with local people and it was great. We got to know the locals, what they eat, what they make for a living, how they live…
People live here in tough climate, in seemingly meagre houses, they cultivate a poor soil, anyway they are happy. This I was learning from them. Calakmul is a region quite developed, but still godforsaken. If one looks for adventurous work as well as tranquillity this is the right place.
3) Try to search the village on your own. If you are not successful, type this coordinate „18.513063,-89.444504“ to Google Maps.
6) Just one student was attending the lessons regularly so we moved her to adults.
7) It is 1 km far from VGF.
8) It is 5 km far from VGF. Xpujil is capital and administrative centre of Calakmul. With 3000-4000 inhabitants it is the biggest “city” far and wide.
9) From VGF it is 10 km far along the road in the forest or 15 km far along the “road”. There are cars but the road was quite like in the forest. Coordinate is „18.594189,-89.418712“.
10) Just one student was attending the lessons regularly.
11) It is lightly defamatory Mexican name for the foreigners from the USA. In some cases it can be used for all white foreigners. Every time it’s good to disavow from this label. If you do so, you can gain trust from the local people very quickly.
Two months in Calakmul
In the morning I went to the work, in the evening I came from the work, all day long I was working to the computer, surrounded by people focused only on one target, how to buy things cheap and then sell them with profit, without any other concern. That was my life before Mexico. I wasn´t satisfied with the job I had. I was traveling a lot to many countries and I attended many interesting meetings and I was negotiating with poeple, but it was all just a business. It was the business between a developed and a developing world and nothing more, everything just for a few papers, which we give such a high value. After a year and a half, when the work took me time for my close family, friends and myself, I realized that the work I want to dedicate my life should have a different asset than just some amount of money monthly on my pay-bill.
So thanks to UV I went to Mexico. I was full of excitement and a little of fear, but open to everything new and unknown. As a graduated master of international development studies, I came back to branch where I feel comfortable. It´s a job where I can work with people and where I may help to do this world a better place to live.
Not everything was as easy as I imagined, but two months in Calakmul and month traveling around Mexico passed so quickly that it was impossible to believe. And after all, in those three short months I have learned a lot. A lot about myself and about the others. I grappled with Spanish and believe me it was a fight I managed the hot weather and hot chili. I learned to cry and laugh at the same time, when those little devils were running on the tables or even rooftop during my class. We all survived. I hope I learned them something. I saw the rain forest and all the animals living in it. I´ve met people full of enthusiasm to protect this forest and the life in it. I realized that the Mayans are not dead. I´ve found a well of inspiration for my next activities and jobs. I´ve realized that Mexico is my heart country where I would like to return once again.
San Javier, Michoacán, spring 2013
Coatepec, Veracruz, spring 2013
I have found the opportunity to work as a volunteer in Mexico via Internet. I just entered the key words „volunteer“ and „Latin America“. In fact – at the beginning I wanted to go to the Dominican Republic, where I spent magnificent vacation in 2012 and I felt there like in a paradise. But it would be very tough – back in the year I founded just US NGOs operating there, which charged an application fee plus additional cost for room and board. I didn´t have sufficient money to do that, so I continued to search for something else
After all I succeeded to get to Mexico without paying any fees thanks to the Czech organization United Vision, which is teaching English there. They offered me to become a volunteer in Coatepec in the Mexican state Veracruz for at least three months. I just had to get a flight ticket and travel insurance.
English class in the church
United Vision sends trained volunteers to their communities with eco-touristic potential to teach English in return for Room & Board. With the effective methodology invented by two Czech English teachers (former co-founders) every volunteer can manage it with a decent level of English and basic Spanish knowledge.
In Veracruz was the partner organization Mujeres Productivas (Productive women) led by Imalda H. Sanabria. I met her at the airport in Mexico City, where she waited me and brought me to wonderful Coatepec, when I stayed at her house.
Coatepec is about five hours away from DF by bus. It has a population of about 50 000 inhabitants and is quite civilized, with lots of schools, shops, banks, restaurants and cafes. The main product – coffee, smells on every corner there, so you can enjoy the great street aroma.
There are also many catholic churches in the town and at least five of them are quite large. In one of them, San Jeronimo, I even used to have morning classes. Later in the afternoon I taught in a primary school (collegio) and also in two restaurants. The owners offered me in return full consumption of food and beverages.
Fun increases the cost
I arrived to Coatepec in March and already at that time it was about fifteen degrees. Summer-being, it would seem. But the town is situated in the mountains, at an altitude of about 1200 meters above sea level and there´s enough wind blows. I had to put on a wool cap and a scarf during the day and sometimes at night I slept under three blankets. In the buildings the doors and windows are usually open and there is no heating, so high humidity might drive you chill to the bones. The more I appreciated the fact that Imelda had shower with hot water – which is in Mexico not that common.
When it comes to food, I either ate in the restaurant where I worked or at Imelda´s house. My students also invited me often to their houses for dinner or to make a trip with them. I have also visited Mexican birthday parties with very sweet cakes and coca-cola. So I didn´t spend that much money, my personal expenses were spent just for my pleasure-trips and nightlife. I was pleasantly surprised how cheap the taxis there are. And the street food eather. It´s recommended to use just the registered one, otherwise you risk robbing. The problem is, that the illegal ones may look exactly the same.
Your friend is also my friend
Besides from the criminals, normal Mexicans are absolutely wonderful people. They do not care so much about the work or material security, they do know, how to live and don´t count every minute of a time! If the Czechs freak out when someone get a moment later, in Mexico people come half hour later without any stress. One of us must get used to (f. e. when your lesson starts at 10am and the first geek comes 20 min later), but on the other hand, they have a lot of things to appreciate.
My other remark is that Mexicans begin early with own family (especially in smaller towns, you would probably search for single twenties a long time). A family is a value above all elseThere doesn´t exist a situation, that f. e. my cousin missed a family celebration because there is some festival in his/her schedule. Lot of young people stay together with their parents quite a long time, there is not that big need to become independent and live apart.
Czechs are mostly touched by Mexican kindness and willingness to help. You can recognize it on small things specifically Mexicans as for example when I was leaving a pub lately in the night, my friends always dropped me by to my home, they wouldn´t let me walk alone. Or how the people can open their arms for someone they hardly know. Your friend is also my friend – this phrase is there literally true. For instance, when I said to Imelda, that was going on a weekend trip to Papantla, she called her friend who lives there to take care of me. Seňora Anna shared with me the whole weekend and presented me to her big family. I would say, that the Mexican people are dominated by their emotions.
After coming back from Mexico, I became a member of United Vision to maintain contact with Mexico and to help to coordinate other volunteers. I may say that there is nice adventure waiting for all others as well.
San Javier, Morelia, Michoacán, autumn 2012
My name is Barbora Kostková. I graduated from the Spanish philology of the Charles University in Prague in 2012. I became a volunteer of United Vision in the autumn in 2012. After my studies I wanted to experience something new, something exciting. I always had a favourable stance on Latin America and when I by coincidence met United Vision, I decided very fast to go to Mexico to teach English there. Quick work of my current colleagues and a bit touch of destiny sent me to San Javier, small poor community near Morelia, the capital of Michoacán. What followed then in next three months can´t be described easily. Now I am back, with a lot of pictures, new friends and unforgettable memories, the same I could get here at home or anywhere else. In fact, I can´t see any big changes on myself. But the incredible thing about that is what I left there. Nobody can´t take them what they learned from English and nobody can´t take them the feeling that somebody cares. And wouldn´t believe how much does it mean to them, to simple people who live in poverty and try to live a better life.
And what do I know, maybe one day, when everything break down here, I will find one more big profit for me … that I can always get back there and they will accept me with open hearts.
Coatapec, summer 2012
Bacalar, Coatepec, Jalcomulco, Papantla, September 2011 – March 2012
Linda joined United Vision at its beginnings (at the end of 2010) as an expert on the methodology for children. In the last year of her studies at the Technical University in Liberec, where she got a degree in English and Spanish, she decided to leave for Mexico to test the new developed methodology.
In September 2011, after her final exams, she flew to Mexico with Filip Šena to start a pilot project in a Mexican community Bacalar, in Quintana Roo. They spent there two months teaching not only children but also adults. The methodology seemed to work just fine. After that they relocated to a beautiful village Jalcomulco, in Veracruz and after two more months to Papantla, a famous tourist town.
A half year spent in Mexico was an extraordinary experience for her and it definitely changed her view of life. Presently she works in the Czech Republic as a teacher of English and Spanish. Moreover she coaches new volunteers in methodology for the UV.
Bacalar, Coatepec, Jalcomulco, Papantla, September 2011 – March 2012
Filip Šena, a co-founder of United Vision, volunteered in Mexico three times (3 missions of 6 months from 2008 to 2012). First missions took place in Hidalgo (Huasca de Ocampo, San Miguel Regla) and Oaxaca (Rio Manso). The pilot project of United Vision (2011 – 2012) took place in Quintana Roo (Bacalar) and Veracruz (Jalcomulco, Coatepec and Papantla). During this life phase Filip gained very useful experience that has influenced both his professional and personal life.
Despite getting a master degree in Economics, Filip devotes his effort and time to developing teaching methods for adults, running a teaching web for English learners (www.anglictinaspepou.cz) and helping United Vision with training its volunteers.