Hello, my name is Ash Mantashi and I first started as a volunteer in 2001, assisting Iracambi in gathering and managing their Geographic Information Systems. The Iracambi staff were particularly effective in maintaining good communication and providing ongoing support to me, even as I was based in Canada. In a collaborative partnership between Iracambi and Niagara College in Canada, I was responsible to initiate, and coordinate a GIS thesis project for students at the college. The purpose of this collaboration was to offer students a challenging international project where they could apply their technical knowledge gained during the year, and learn more about Iracambi, Brazil, and the environmental issues, in general. In return, Iracambi had access to insightful work done in another country, and in my opinion, the success of this project was the sharing of knowledge between two dedicated and professional organizations, and it also inspired students to engage in a multidimensional, complex and culturally-sensitive project. The experience of working with Iracambi was very rewarding for me as well and shortly after, I went to work in South America, and then Africa. Today, I enjoy sharing my life-changing international experiences with my students and colleagues, and I like to raise awareness about environmental issues, the importance of working in cross-cultural teams, and giving back to communities.
My entire experience was great! Iracambi is one of the organizations in Brazil which works towards conservation and reforestation of the Atlantic forest. So it is what I was looking for. The life there is basic, but cabins are good enough to be comfortable. People is very nice, cats are lovely and the others volunteers are awesome. I share my time with 5 volunteers more, they were from USA , Australia, Germany and UK. We collaborate planting native trees, in the medical plants garden and in a coffee plantation. Hands-on work very fun. It is an opportunity to meet very special people. And the best was the "pão com queijo" of Carminha!
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.