Closing out Season 9 with a new round of volunteers

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-04 at 7.09.08 AMWe are eternally grateful for all volunteers past and present who have contributed to the Playa Viva project. Here’s a little about our most recent volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, please send inquiries to volunteer@playaviva.com

Rachel Bubb
USA
3-months, Agriculture + Community Garden Intern

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What’s your “story”? (Where are you from and what were you doing before you arrived? How did you get “here”?)

I was born and raised in southern California, and graduated from UC Berkeley two years ago with a  degree in Conservation and Resource Studies. Last year, I worked on Bainbridge Island, WA at an organic farm. Working there I realized my love for growing and being outdoors, but was eager to get out of the Pacific Northwest chill, so I decided to skip winter. Since November I have been traveling south from Baja California to Panama and then back up again to Mexico. I literally got here by plane, but my love for plants, the ocean, and Mexican culture brought me to Playa Viva. 

How did you find out about Playa Viva?

I was referred to Playa Viva by a friend. She volunteered here during the early years of Playa Viva and recommended I check it out. 

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I chose to volunteer at Playa Viva for a few reasons. One, I wanted to experience living and working in a different country. My Spanish was okay; I could get by, but I wanted to immerse myself and really improve. Second, I wanted to learn to grow in a different climate, learn new tricks of the trade, and gain an understanding of what a functioning farm to table operation looks like and requires. Lastly, the community involvement and development projects of Playa Viva in Juluchuca drew me in. I wanted to work on the Playa Viva farm and learn their ways, but I really liked the idea of working with the community and developing projects within the town. 

What are you working on at Playa Viva?

Stu and I are setting up a permanent garden space at the Comedor in Juluchuca as well as creating/maintaining a community garden in town at the volunteers’ home. The main goals of our projects is to introduce fresh vegetables and herbs to the community and encourage them to grow and use fresh food for their own purposes and inspire healthier living. Juluchuca is a very poor, rural town and the dietary habits of the community are not the healthiest, therefore, we are trying to show them that they can grow quality fruits and vegetables and incorporate into their daily meals. 

What has been the highlight of your experience so far AND/OR what are you most looking forward to learn and contribute during your internship/service?

IMG_1055The highlight of my experience thus far is the flexibility in being creative with our projects. The volunteer program allows you to be innovative and experiment with ideas. Also a huge highlight is eating all the different fruits in the huerto; fruits I didn’t even know existed. I am most looking forward to finishing up our project at the Comedor and establishing a permanent garden space for them. They are really excited about getting herbs, sunflowers, and fresh vegetables, and it’s been neat to see them get on board with the project. Furthermore, I am looking forward to learning more about this growing climate and the organic techniques of the Playa Viva farm. 

Share the moment you felt a paradigm shift (or were inspired) to get involved with agriculture?

Gradually my classes in University led me to get involved with agriculture. I started changing my diet, enjoying farmers markets, and growing potted plants. Before I knew it, I was attached to my plants and their well-being, eager to get more involved with a garden space, and then decided it was time to work on a farm.

What motivates you to keep going in this field?

Watching the plants grown and change over time keeps me going; I love seeing the plants sprout and develop throughout the weeks. When the going gets real tough with the heat or pests ruin your newly planted plot, I love to just spend time by myself weeding and meditate. Also the chance to eat all the fresh vegetables I can motivates me even more to keep going.

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The farm team after installing the new fence for the community garden

Stuart Miller
USA
3 months, Agriculture + Community Garden Intern

WhatsApp Image 2018-04-06 at 2.41.27 PMWhat’s your “story”? (Where are you from and what were you doing before you arrived? How did you get “here”?)

I am from Napa, California and went to UC Berkeley where I studied Earth Science and first developed a passion for sustainable agriculture. I then decided to work on an organic farm in Washington. TO celebrate the bountiful harvest Rachel and I  traveled Central America and now are making a quick pit-stop to volunteer here at Playa Viva.

How did you find out about Playa Viva?

A past volunteer informed me. She knew I would be in the area and of my Spanish/farming capabilities. It really worked out well!

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I wanted to learn how to grow produce on a hot, coastal climate, experience new produce, and improve my Spanish.

What are you working on at Playa Viva?

Right now our focus is on repurposing plastic bottles as growing containers for produce. The ground in Juluchuca is uncovered and exposed to a lot of sun, making the soil lacking in microorganisms and nutrition need for plants to grow. We are introducing this method of growing to the comedor (soup kitchen), schools and generally all around town.

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Tree planting workshop with the kindergarten

What has been the highlight of your experience so far AND/OR what are you most looking forward to learn and contribute during your internship/service?

WhatsApp Image 2018-03-16 at 7.27.28 PMMy highlight has been living in Juluchuca. I have learned much more than I thought I could just by living in a community that is unlike any other I have lived in America. It has been very positive for me to be immersed in a place of people who do not know me but are very nice, friendly and genuine. I hope to return!

Share the moment you felt a paradigm shift (or were inspired) to get involved with agriculture?

After college all of my friends logically moved to San Francisco to work in tech to be part of the big start-up boom. That’s when I knew I wanted to farm outside instead.

What motivates you to keep working in agriculture?

The moments. Getting caught in an abrupt thunderstorm while harvesting. A cool breeze that relieves me when I struggle in the heat. Making eye contact with a ladybug whilst weeding. Gets me going! You know what I’m talking about?

——-

Thibault Henninger
France
5 months, Sustainable Tourism


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What’s your “story”? (Where are you from and what were you doing before you arrived? How did you get “here”?)

Hello my name is Thibault I’m French and I’m currently finishing my studies in sustainable tourism with Playa Viva. Living and working in Guerrero is something new for me but it’s the second time I’m living in Mexico. After working in Yucatan, I decided to come back because I really enjoyed my daily life in Mexico. I definitely felt grounded and fully connected to myself and right after I finish studying, I wish I’ll be able to start my active life somewhere in Mexico.

How did you find out about Playa Viva?

I knew about Playa Viva through Instagram, I am quite interested in every sustainable project. In my view Playa Viva could never grow too much while staying coherent with its values but I do think Playa Viva’s concept could and should be massive. So yes I was interested in learning what it means to be an eco-regenerative resort and I felt like I could try helping PV in its tourist area by developing a relationship with the locals.

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I chose Playa Viva, but didn’t choose to be volunteer haha! Jokes aside, I’m a student until September 2018 and I’m currently doing my Master’s final internship. In France students are paid while doing an internship. I already knew that’s not the tendency at all in central America but I’m focused and driven by my final goals and by what’s interesting me more than money.

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Intern “office” 🙂

For these reasons, I am pleased to be in “La Costa Grande”, living and working with PV. Moreover, after one month and a half now, I can safely say by being part of PV’s volunteering program that we are well treated; we’re eating healthy food and the shared house PV is renting for its volunteers in Juluchuca is nice. Having our own transport vehicle would be the last great step to be more efficient.

I can also say the good work and reports made by previous volunteers made me feel safe
about playa viva and my interest for this company and place grew thanks to what I was able to read around de volunteering program. Someone is doing a good job on that in my view = )

fishtour2.jpegWhat are you working on at Playa Viva 

With Playa Viva I’m trying to develop new tours and activities involving more the locals at each step of the process. I am studying sustainable tourism and my goal here is to identify and understand the local dynamics. I value inter cultural exchange, inter-religious dialogue and inter-regional communication between generations, of different cultural backgrounds.

As a result, I am trying to think with the locals and even if the atmosphere in the hotel is pleasant, (no doubt on that, Playa Viva is an impressive great place) I wish I’ll be able to make people discover and understand more the real local life of Costa Grande. I am also attached in improving the local economy, and I’m listening the locals to understand their expectations and choices. Sustainable tourism implies the understanding and the respect of the local culture / nature and sharing the benefits so I salute and respect, every effort made in that direction.

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Trial “tour de pesca” – Puerto Xapútica

What has been the highlight of your experience so far AND/OR what are you most looking forward to learn and contribute during your internship/service?

I look forward to see a new fair partnership between Playa Viva and some new locals that would give a local experience to tourists. The inhabitants of the region need Playa Viva and its strengths in term of visibility to bring people here; and at the same time, Playa Viva need the locals to propose real authentic sustainable tours that people are looking for. From all over the world people are getting more and more interested in authenticity and it is not so easy to find in the hospitality business. For me and for what sustainable tourism means, it has to be a just win-win situation.

What motivates you to keep working in sustainable tourism?

I’m living near the biggest tourist hub in the world which is the Mediterranean basin. Nowadays and despite what already exists in terms of tourist development in the hinterlands, coasts and beaches represent by far the main tourist appeal in a country. I know, I’ve studied and I’ve seen in some places about the consequences coming from the destruction of the coastal landscape under concrete because of massive seaside tourism, which leads in addition, to a loss of cultural legacy and traditions. Thinking the future coastal areas and the “tomorrow’s beach space” is the main challenge we have to deal with in terms of viable long- term tourism.

World population is increasing, transportation accesses are always easier and it exists a growing very important link between Sustainable Development and Tourism.

——

Eric Shaw
USA
2 months, Agriculture + Community Garden Intern

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What’s your “story”? (Where are you from and what were you doing before you arrived? How did you get “here”?)

I worked the past 5 years in organic agriculture in the US.  I was interested in long term travel in Mexico and pairing that with my work experience.  So, I looked for how I could make that happen!

How did you find out about Playa Viva?

I found out about Playa Viva on the work exchange website, Workway.  I really wanted to find a place to live short term in Mexico so I could learn more about a specific area.  I focused my search on organizations that needed help in tourism, agriculture, and hospitality.  Playa Viva fulfilled all three!

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I decided to volunteer because it was a great learning opportunity in many areas.  I wanted to experience how the tourism side of the hotel operated and how it provided an experience for the guests.  Also, how the hotel incorporates a self sustainable approach to agriculture into their kitchen.  I had a lot of interest to learn about about the specific climate and native plants to the area.  I had actually never lived close to the coast, so experiencing that lifestyle interested me.

What are you working on at Playa Viva?

I am a farm volunteer for Playa Viva.  I work in the hotel’s gardens doing planting, soil preparation, harvesting, and any daily task needed to be accomplished.  Also, I support the community’s low income Comedor by providing a link between them and Playa Viva.  We provide them with weekly food deliveries, helping them with their garden, and installing a water catchment system.  Another project is expanding and caring for the volunteers’ gardens at Casa Blanca.  The goal is for it to provide vegetables to the future volunteers and the Comedor.

What has been the highlight of your experience so far AND/OR what are you most looking forward to learn and contribute during your internship/service?

I have really learned a lot about coastal tropical agriculture here at Playa Viva.  The hotel sits on land that was previously used for coconut and mango production.  There are also many cashew, soursop, jackfruit, lemon, cocoa, and nanche trees.  I was very unfamiliar with all of these plants before I arrived.  I am excited about building three rain water catchment systems.  They will greatly improve water availability to the Playa Viva gardens, Comedor, and the volunteer house.

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Afternoon fishing in La Barrita with fellow intern Thibault

Share the moment you felt a paradigm shift (or were inspired) to get involved with [agriculture, marine conservation, whatever it is you’re working in/working toward]?

I stumbled upon agriculture on accident.  Before, I worked in engineering for a major aviation company and found the work unfulfilling personally.  Many hours were spent at a desk on a computer indoors.  I decided to leave this job and try something new.  After traveling in Central America working as a hiking guide, I realized that I needed to be outdoors!  When I returned to the US, I found a job working on a vegetable farm in California and fell in love with the work.  Every since I have appreciated working outdoors, getting exercise, and feeling like my contribution towards producing healthy food is a worthwhile field of work.

What motivates you to keep going [in your field]?

I continue to work in organic agriculture because it is constantly changing, and there is always more to learn.  The field is growing larger as more and more people become concerned with how their food is produced.  I hope to continue to learn and also offer a positive contribution of my own one day.

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Tiritas and cerveza on the beach 🙂

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