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I woke up to a symphony. Birds chirped, cicadas hummed, and small creatures scurried in the undergrowth. I walked out of my room at sunrise, enamored by neon flowers and towering canopies. This was my first morning volunteering in The Amazon Rainforest at The Yachana Foundation.
What ensued was a month of adventure and discovery while being disconnected from society. While being offgrid in The Amazon Rainforest sounded daunting at first, volunteering through Worldpackers ended up being the most enriching travel experience of my life.
I will take you through my awe-inspiring journey of volunteering at this remarkable project, where the lush Amazon Rainforest became my classroom, and the local community became my extended family.
Each day at The Yachana Foundation brought a new lesson in co-existing with Earth's heart. I was not an eco expert by any means before my time here, but I learned everything from stingless bee caretaking, cacao harvesting, biodigesters, and reforestation, to adventure.
Read on to find out the experiences you can have volunteering in The Amazon Rainforest yourself!
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The Yachana Foundation is a picturesque area nestled under The Amazonian canopy. It is flourishing with vibrant flowers, morpho butterflies, and opportunities. It was founded in 1995 by Douglas McMeekin of Lexington, Kentucky. Imagine my surprise meeting someone from my tiny home-state in the remote Amazon! It's a small world indeed.
Yachana in the indigenous Kichwa language means "A Place to Learn". This aptly describes the experience a volunteer can have here. Every day the workers and volunteers strive to think of new ways to benefit the local community. The work done here all goes back into the land and sustainment of The Amazon Rainforest.
At the Yachana Foundation I didn't just learn about nature; I was an active participant in its preservation. Under the guidance of skilled teachers, I learned about agroforestry. This included planting and harvesting cacao, properly spacing and marking coffee trees, and planting breadfruit trees as a part of reforestation.
I also learned how to care for pigs and chickens. Did you know that pigs like to eat banana leaves? Or that you can use a solar dehydrator to dry corn to use for chicken feed?
After all of this, I finally understood how cyclical everything was. Nature knows how to thrive and take care of itself. Our work was not interfering with nature, or doing its job, but acting in harmony with it.
The fertile earth grew the banana trees. The pigs feasted on ripe bananas. From that waste, and other organic material, we were able to feed a biodigester. The biodigester then broke down the material over the course of two weeks to create fertilizer. This fertilizer was rich in minerals and aided saplings in their growth.
All for the cycle to start over again.
It was not all work, though. There was plenty of time to enjoy the project and relax. In the heat of the afternoon I would meditate under the most powerful tree I have ever seen. There, I found inspiration, creativity, and rest. I also used this time to catch up on reading, watch Netflix, or video chat with friends and family. Even though you are off grid in The Amazon, the solar-powered WiFi is fairly reliable!
You can be off grid, immersed in nature, and not surrender all your comforts.
In the Amazon Rainforest, food is a reflection of the land's abundance. This is where I had some of the best meals of my life! I ate everything from heart of palm quiche, plantains picked onsite, and even pirhana caught in the local river!
The Yachana Foundation provided an on-site cook who supplied three well balanced meals a day. This was the ultimate farm-to-table experience given that the nearest tiny town was an hour away. There were no grocery stores or restaurants. The family-style meals were my favorite part of the day.
As a part of the experience, I even got to join a cooking class and learn how to make chocolate from scratch!
If there is one thing The Amazon has no shortage of, it's adventure. During my time off, I explored The Amazon's gems. Here are just a few of the captivating activities I experienced as a volunteer.
A picture-perfect waterfall hidden deep in the jungle. This took an hour ride and a further trek to get here.
I visited an Amazonian fruit farm and indulged in the freshest fruits I've ever tasted! I'm picky with fruits, and I loved everything I ate here.
This was my favorite thing I did in The Amazon. This was one of the most unique activities I've ever done and I would have never known about it without volunteering.
The Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon River, was like a dream. Another highlight to volunteering at Yachana was zooming through rapids in a canoe. This was one of the best places to take in the wildlife around me.
My time at The Yachana Foundation was not only about personal development, but also about making a lasting impact on the local community.
The Yachana Foundation is dedicated to creating positive social change in The Amazon Rainforest. As a volunteer you can directly contribute while working with the local people. There are always new projects and new ways to improve the area. Some of these include: the development of a new clinic, a new solar-powered school, and research on stingless bees.
The Amazon Rainforest and the Yachana Foundation is one of the most enriching places a volunteer can spend their time. It was not just an adventure; it was a chance to experience immersion, an opportunity to learn from nature, and a way to create positive change.
Want to experience this and volunteer here? Apply through the Worldpacker links above!