Beanz 'n' Rice Volunteers: Havin' Fun, Helpin' Out
We’re all much too familiar with those heartbreaking images that come across our television screen reminding us we can make a difference in third world countries. For a few cents a day, we can change the lives of the less fortunate for the better (as well we should).
Their persistence to make volunteering more accessible resulted in an organization focused on cheaper alternatives for volunteer work. And so, BeanznRice was born along with their mantra, "Havin’ Fun and Helpin’ Out."
BeanznRice is working in partnership with South American non-government organization’s (NGO’s) to produce a documovie about the work that is accomplished by volunteer.
A Valuable Resource
"After countless encounters with people all echoing the same frustration of not being able to find low-cost volunteer work, we thought that by doing this we might provide a valuable resource for anyone else interested in traveling and genuinely volunteering throughout South America."
The first leg of the trip begins in Ecuador, known as the best country in South America to learn Spanish. The team will take part in a three-week intensive language course in Ecuador’s capital Quito.
I spoke with Brad before the team headed into the jungle to Merazonia. There they will be helping out with an animal refuge that is still in its early stages of construction. When I asked Brad if everything was going according to plan he did have one interesting obstacle to talk about.
“Well we’ve already had one of our cameras stolen. Luckily it wasn’t our camcorder and it was just a camera to take photos with, but none the less a bit of a hassle to go into town to buy another.”
Only a month into their trip and they’ve already hit some bumps, but when speaking with Rickard I got the impression that it was all in a day’s work. I could tell they were excited about the trip and had nothing but enthusiasm for their upcoming adventures.
They’ll experience what it’s really like to live in the jungle village of Mera between mountains, rainforest and rivers. To keep it interesting the BeanznRice crew will embark on a two-week canoe trip and cargo boat journey down the Rio Napo to the Amazon River in Iquitos, Peru.
After the team arrives in Peru, they plan to explore the famous attractions as well as favorite local pastimes. Making their way south to Ica where locals like to sand board down the giant sand dunes. The next stop is Nazca, to check out the remarkable aerial view of the Nazca Lines before reaching Machu Picchu.
By the month of June, the gang will head into Bolivia arriving at the western side of Lake Titicaca. Bolivia’s natural beauty masks its economic troubles. Volunteers are important for this country, which is the poorest in all of Latin American.
The objective while in Bolivia will be focused on Inti Wara Yassi, an animal refuge tucked away in the rainforest of Bolivia at Villa Tunari. This sanctuary provides protection for dozens of birds, tortoises, monkeys, coatis and wild cats that have been illegally poached andkept in private homes, hotels and circuses.
The dedication of the work done through Inti Wara Yassi was what first inspired BeanznRice to focus on the volunteer aspect of the trip. The praise and testimonials of visitors who have been touched by the animals and their cause inspired the crew to dedicate six weeks of their time working in the area. As they make their exit, they will travel south to Uyini to visit the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat that covers a vast 12,000 square kilometers (about three million acres).
As if tackling one foreign language wasn’t enough, the team will have to learn Portugese to navigate their way through Brazil. Their first destination of Pantanal is home to the world’s largest wetlands covering an astonishing 230,000 square kilometers (about 57 million acres). For a quick detour the team will ride horseback from Bolivia to Paraguay to observe an ecological paradise rich with exotic wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in South America.
As they return to Brazil, they’ll visit Rio de Janeiro a city famous for its beauty. About 80 kilomters (50 miles) north of Rio is Reserva Ecologica de Guapi Assu (R.E.G.U.A.). This non-governmental association is responsible for the much needed protection of the last strands of tropical rainforest left in the severely depleted Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil.
Their contribution to the organization will include accompanying the rangers on forest walks, observing and recording species encountered, maintaining and opening new trails, helping with habitat restoration and species reintroduction work, collecting seeds and working in the nursery. Following the beaches to reach the impressive Amazon River for the second time, the crew will stop at just a few of Brazil’s 350 National Parks.
The team will revisit the powerful Amazon River again, only this time they will have to travel upstream. The five-day excursion from Belem to Manaus will be done aboard a riverboat, so they’ll be able to take their time enjoying the scenery before they embark on the last leg of their trip.
It’s time for the home stretch once they reach land -- Venezuela. Given the descriptions on their site, it is apparent they anticipate a relaxing end to a chaotic journey.
"Twelve months of sleeping in tents and hostels, 20-hour bus rides, flea ridden animals, mammoth mosquitoes, living in close proximity with each other and putting up with each others bad smells. This is the final leg of our journey."
There is little volunteer work available in Venezuela, making it the perfect place to reflect on the last year, unwind and sight see. They’ll travel from south to north into the Gran Sabana where up until 1973 there wasn’t even a paved road to reach the region. The landscape is home to a series of gigantic table mountains the most prominent being in Roraima. Here, visitors can embark on a five-day hike and camp out on the mountain.
To get that last adrenaline rush, they’ll head east to Merida. Merida’s is known as the adventure capital of the continent, and offers a plethora of adventure sports such as paragliding and horseback riding to name a few.
A Beer or Two
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