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Elaine Doyle, EIL, Guatemala

Elaine's Portait

I was granted the EIL Global Awareness Program (GAP) award for 2013 to travel to Guatemala for eight weeks to work on sustainable development projects.

My programme consisted of one week of Spanish and environmental classes based near the beautiful cobblestoned city of Antigua, six weeks living in the chilly highlands working in a locally run forest park and one week in the sweltering heat on the Pacific coast working with a UK sea turtle conservation charity.

The whole experience was truly amazing and each day came with its new challenges and excitements. It is hard to pick what I enjoyed most about the experience, possibly finishing the rainwater harvesting unit, living with a local family and really feeling a part of that family and travelling the country to see the variations between places and learn more about the wonderfully intriguing and diverse country that is Guatemala.

Throughout the eight weeks I learnt a lot about life in Guatemala, its turbulent and fascinating history and its resilient people who still try and keep their strong traditions. Coming home is always exciting, great to see loved ones but very quickly after you experienced luxuries such as a hot shower and a trip on a non overcrowded bus you begin to really miss the beautiful and fascinating place you left and realise you may not be back very soon.

As part of the GAP awards I must run three awareness raising campaigns. I am currently working on them and they include articles and presentations about the trip, a handbook on building a rainwater harvesting unit with limited resources and writing a children’s book on turtles and climate change. Guatemala will always be in my heart and I hope one day to return again to see the friends I made.