Volunteering at a Farm

First of all – we are a few weeks late on our blog posts. We’re trying to catch up, but have been travelling so much lately that it seems almost impossible. For most updated info and many photos “like” our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram.

HelpX

Already when planning our big trip, I was convinced I wanted to try something different. I wanted to try to live a completely different life to what I was used to, work with my hands and learn new things. At least for a while. Volunteering seemed like a perfect way to do it. Plus you save money on accommodation and board and that is always an advantage if you are traveling on a budget.

There are more Internet platforms that connect hosts and volunteers. The one I chose to register for is HelpX just because they seem to have a wide listing of hosts in South America, their website is user-friendly, the fee is only 20 EUR for 2 years and I can always change my profile (for example from a couple to single, if one of us decides to do something else for a while).

It took only few minutes to register and about one day to get in touch with our hosting family – Julie and Luke Martin who run their farm Hacienda Chan Chan in a Cuenca neighborhood called Chiquintad. The listing said that they were looking for someone to help them with everyday farming life (milking cows, fencing, feeding, planting,…) and care of their four kids. Exactly what we were looking for. Plus the proximity to Cuenca, which was on my bucket list anyway.

We were picked up in front of a church in Chiquintad by the Martin’s carpenter Darwin just a few minutes after noon, almost exactly as agreed. After about 20 minutes of a ride up, we arrived to the farm, where the lunch was being served at that moment. Perfect timing to get to know our hosts, their family and other volunteers.

After the arrival

To be completely sincere, I did not really like the place at the first moment. There were too many people – 4 Martin’s kids, a couple of very young German travellers and an other French family with 2 kids. I was tired, cold, the house seemed very untidy, there were animals freely moving all around and the place where we were supposed to sleep was not even completely built yet. I was on the verge of crying and we were seriously considering leaving the place as soon as possible. But fortunately I know myself and I know that I can’t trust my feelings when I’m tired. So we finally decided to wait for the door of our room and a sleeping mat to come, to have some sleep and to decide the next day. And that was the best decision we could have made.

Already during the lunch Luke told us why they decided to invite us to stay with them even though we had no experience with farming – they need a website, some promotional video and photos for their new project – a dairy farm and wooden cabins that they are thinking about to build to accommodate tourists. That all thanks to our blog and videos that they liked a lot! And of course if we have some time left we can help other volunteers with their projects. Wow! Even though it was very different from our expectations and even though the time we had to make it all happen was very limited, we felt very honored and the next morning we decided to give it a try.

And guess what – we not only stayed one day longer than originally planned, we actually enjoyed our stay and working on the farm, we learned many new interesting things and we hope that we helped the family and to promote the Hacienda at least a little bit.

So, what did we actually do?

Our main project was to create a website, shoot a promotional video and all the photos and that all in less than a week. I believe that in such a short time we did quite some job. You can check the result here (click on the link to see the website Michal created):

Hacienda Chan Chan website

And Michal’s video here:

This work included also going for long hikes to take the pictures and spending hours beside a table editing the videos and photos.

And when we had some free time? I learned to bake a delicious bread as Julie did and that it is not so difficult to make your own butter.

I also had a chance to visit a huge farmer’s (mainly animal) market in Cuenca. We attended a celebration in Chiquintad on Saturday night.

We helped building a greenhouse, wash dishes after meal, collect a saw dust… I know, it sounds like a minor work, but it’s something that has to be done at the farm.

And we saw a day old calve, we learned a lot about livestock and mainly – we stepped out of our comfort zone, we were cold most of the time, dirty (imagine one shower with cold water for 8 adults and 6 kids – you would rather stink too), tired, but we enjoyed our time and all this experience made us a little stronger.

I would like to thank Julie and Luke and their family for their hospitality and wish them all the best with their planned projects!

How about you, have you ever thought about becoming a volunteer? I’ll definitely do that again as soon as I get a chance!