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August 2, 2011

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August 2, 2011

No amount of reading or other preparation (to be fair, I did very little) could have prepared me for my two months of working and living at the Iracambi Atlantic Rainforest Research Center. From the moment I arrived, to the departure of the volunteer coordinator one week later, to the last frantic week of tying up loose ends, Iracambi forced me to hit the ground running, demanded and provided inspiration, challenged my creative thinking, and a required constant willingness to trouble-shoot and "work with whatever you've got," be it resources, staff or daylight hours. Iracambi volunteers take on individual projects that suit their talents and interests, while cooperating to provide a bank of knowledge and willing hands to keep the organization running smoothly. Directors Robin and Binka Le Breton have perfected the art of giving people the information and tools to achieve their personal goals as well as contribute to the ongoing goals and projects of the organization. Volunteers are empowered by the responsibility bestowed upon them to see projects through to completion. In my time at Iracambi, I witnessed and contributed to research and projects pertaining to the threat of mining, soil quality, alternative agriculture methods and structures, community empowerment through mapping, ecosystem monitoring, and the birth of an environmental education program. Although these projects span an incredible range of issues, require different tools and skills and come with unique obstacles, the health and vitality of the Atlantic Forest and the people who live in the region depend on this holistic approach. The passion that Robin and Binka exude and that each new round of volunteers perceives and adopts allows such diverse projects to be sustainable and successful.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

90 students visited the research center for a morning of station activities pertaining to conservation and preservation of the Atlantic Rainforest to launch the Junior Scientists Program. Building off the kick-off day, groups of students from the school will visit the center weekly to continue their environmental education using the resources and equipment at the research center. Additionally, GIS projects provided maps to communities to assist in establishing environmental management plans.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Iracambi could greatly benefit from a research director to assist volunteers and researchers in achieving the full potential of their work and projects. Iracambi could use updated lab facilities to improve GIS work and other research. Increased visibility and involvement in the community could give more context for the importance of projects.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

My experiences at Iracambi were the most formative and profound of my life. I learned an incredible amount from the location and context of the organization in a rural, agricultural community. I also learned skills such as GIS and methods of monitoring watersheds through my work with other volunteers on Iracambi projects.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

I woke up every morning feeling inspired, and I intend to carry this inspiration into my future work and projects.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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