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I spent my time on the Volunteer Circle project working with the sugarcane farmers, who do not have enough workers to help cultivate their land and need help to meet the requirements for large-scale panela production. I really enjoyed my time with them, as I enjoy physical work and like to see the results from the work I do immediately, as well as knowing that I am a real help to the individuals involved.

I generally worked on the same task each day, and my most frequent tasks were assisting with the cleaning and packing of the sugarcane, or helping to plant new plants. However, during my time there, I also helped to build a composting area; produced a poster for the farmers explaining composting practices; gave a presentation on good hygiene in the workplace; and helped to plant two trees which can be used as a natural fertilizer and insecticide. I worked a lot with hand tools such as spades and rakes – be prepared!

Initially the farmers were quite shy, as they were unused to volunteers and they do not speak English. However, they quickly relaxed and made me part of the family. The project leader is an extremely helpful woman (fluent in English) who is very generous with the food she provides, and the accommodation is very clean and tidy. I discovered that in general I loved Colombia, as the people were so warm, welcoming, and accepting. The landscape was amazing and so varied – it was like you could find the whole world in one country.

I felt I really made a difference with this project, and was made to feel very welcomed, appreciated, and safe. An experience I would definitely recommend, especially for those who already have knowledge of farming or would like to gain some.