Mencia Alvarez is from Madrid, Spain. She graduated in Biotechnology from Biotechnology from Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, She volunteered in the Women Empowerment Program in Galle, Sri Lanka in September 2022 with Volunteering Solutions.In her interview she shares details of her experience on the program.

Why did you choose to go to Sri Lanka for the program destination and why did you choose Volunteering Solutions ?

I have a friend who went two weeks to Nepal with VS and she recommended it to me. What I liked the most about VS and the reason why I chose it is because they were very helpfull and it was easy to get into a project; the process was short and easy. I chose Sri Lanka because I liked the project and the location.

What was the highlight of your trip ?

The highlight of my trip was the project and getting close to women from a very different culture. I really recommend this project, but I think it is important to go more than 4 weeks if you want to get close to the women, as they are very shy and distant at the beginning (I went 8 weeks).

Any favourite memory ?

In my last day in the project all the women surprised me with goodbye letters, speaches and drawings. It was very touching.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

The mornings are free on the Women Empowerment project, so I used to go surfing, reading, going to the beach or the swimming pool or do some pilates in the rooftop of the house. Most of the projects are in the morning, so I loved having relaxed mornings by my own. Lunch was at 12pm, and at 2:30pm I went to the project. I arrived at 6pm to the house and had the dinner. In the evenings after dinner we used to go and take a beer in bars in the beach or stayed at the house and watched some films or chill. On the weekends we used to do some trips or stayed in the house resting and visiting places near our village (there are many things you can do).

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was having a hard time with English language. I was the only spanish person in the 8 weeks there, and my English at the beginning was not very fluent. Now, looking back, the best thing that happened to me was not having the option of speaking Spanish; I learned so much, and after 4 days there I already felt super comfortable and natural with the language. Also, as most of the people are also not native English speakers, you are all in the same situation and it gets easier to overcome it.

Did you find Sri Lanka to be safe ?

Sri Lanka was super safe. It is a pitty that people are scared about going, because since the crisis the tourism stopped, which is the main reason of their economical crisis now. You dont feel unsafe at all; as it is mainly a buddhist and hindu country, people are very kind and helpfull.

Any other tips for future volunteers?

Dont be scared and dont think It twice. It was the best experience I have ever had, it is really fulfilling and the perfect experience for learning and growing. It is not a hard volunteering experience; you have free time, the House is comfortable and you can chill and visit the country. It is a different way of travelling and knowing people. I recommend going from 4 to 8 weeks; less is too short and you dont get to feel that you know the culture, and more can be a bit exhausting. 

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