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My name is Carolina and I am from Ecuador. I was the first volunteer who went to Madagascar in the first year of the WWF Youth Volunteer Programme (Oct-Dec 2005). I spent three months working in Ankarimbelo, a small town located in the forest corridor between the Ranomafana and Andringitra National Parks. Unlike the new volunteers, I was in Madagascar by myself and worked as a biologist on a technical project with WWF Ambalavo. The project consisted of an analysis of the status of four fish species that live in the local rivers and the development of a project proposal for their conservation. Working with nature and people by myself was the best way for me to grow as a person and as a professional.
As you can read in my stories, this experience changed my life. Being one of the few (or perhaps the only one) volunteers that experienced the South-South cultural exchange, I realized how similar people are around the world and the importance that nature has in every person’s life. In a way, going to Madagascar, a country that is in the other side of the world, felt for me like going home. I acquired technical and personal skills in a remote country that are applicable in conservation and development initiatives for both African and Latin American realities.
After Madagascar, I went back to my home country and was able to apply what I learned. I worked in the National Environmental Fund and then decided to keep learning so that I can contribute in a better way. The experience I had in Madagascar, the United States and Ecuador pushed me to continue my studies in the environmental field, now on the management and conservation side. I am currently in the second year of the Master’s in Environmental Management Program at Yale University in the US.
I am now focusing on adaptation to climate change in developing countries. Experiencing firsthand the vulnerability of ecosystems and local people to natural disasters in Africa and Latin America made me realize the importance of new approaches to face the current and future effects that climate change will have on these regions. Thanks to my studies, I was able to visit Kenya and China, and I worked this summer on a project on adaptation to climate change and water resource management in Peru.
After finishing my Master’s degree, I expect to pursue a PhD on climate change and global equity. I still don’t know what the future has prepared for me, but one thing is for sure: I plan to keep traveling and looking for enriching opportunities like the one offered by WWF’s Youth Volunteer Programme. These are life-changing experiences that are the best way for young, motivated people to get to know the world, get a broad and clear perspective on important issues related to conservation and people, and help other people do it at the same time.