Besides the amazing Workaway experience with Alexandro in the Tayrona National Park we found in the middle of the Caribbean jungle in the north of Colombia a wonderful small oasis hiding near the Rio Buritaca where we had the opportunity to volunteer for the second time. There we supported the Hostel El Rio for 1,5 weeks by recording all their activities which they offer for guests in pictures so they can promote them better in the future. For our help we got a simple accommodation in a tent and 3 free meals a day (always super delicious). Beside many other volunteers who worked at the reception, the bar, at the kitchen or as English teachers for the local people, we lined up almost silently. In the beginning we were just the couple who are „taking the pictures“, but that should change quickly.
In our first days we went for different tours to get some nice pictures for their promotion. On our first trip we went on a nature tour which was done mainly by boat. After we jumped on a boat with the whole group we were driven through the pampas (small rivers surrounded from the jungle) around Buritaca. After 1 hour we reached a lonely small sandbank in the middle of the ocean. There all people jumped off, took a brake and we watched the amazing sunset while drinking some beers. When it got dark the guide made a huge camp fire and it was surreal sitting at this small sand bank watching the fire while hearing the sound of the ocean next to yourself. Until this moment we enjoyed the tour already a lot and we had the possibility to take some nice pictures for the hostel. After a relaxing hour we went back on the boat to go for the highlight of the tour: the crocodile tracking. The aim was to find some crocodiles and catch one for a short moment to show their beauty to us. The captain of the boat was crazy. To catch a crocodile, he jumped out of the boat in the pure darkness just with a torch and nothing more. This night he wasn´t lucky so we “just” could see the flashing eyes of those amazing creatures over the water surface. Still the whole tour was a great experience! Enjoy the pictures 🙂
Besides this we captured many other tours for the hostel over the next following days. On another day we went out with dirt motorbikes to see some waterfalls and explore nice viewpoints located in the middle of the jungle. The tour was organized by friends of the hostel which owns the company called “adrenaline addicts”. We enjoyed the tour with the bikes a lot because it was totally different to the things we experienced until now. So, if you have the time and are interested in motorbikes you should check them out! 🙂 In addition to this we explored the beaches near Buritaca, went for a mega tubing experience and hiked to an amazing viewpoint from where you could see the ocean, the jungle and the snow peaked mountains of the Sierra Nevada.
P.S.: Check out our PhotoInspiration of Colombia their you find more pictures from those events! 🙂
But besides all this “having fun” activities we experienced some events together with the El Rio Hostel which should blow our minds. The El Rio Hostel is well known as a great party hostel but besides of this they are carrying a lot about local kids. We were emotionally impressed how many activities the hostel offers to the local population of the small village Buritaca. In our final days we had the luck to support them with different social work tasks and been confronted with a totally new world.
Our first unforgettable moment was the Friday Sports Club. It represents a weekly event where people of the hostel meet up with local kids in the primary school of Buritaca, packed with all kinds of toys (Hoola Hoop tires, jump ropes, footballs and basketballs) to have an amazing time together and help the kids to forget their present problems. When we went to the primary school we didn’t know what to expect. As we arrived, it was depressing and fascinating in ones! The sports field of the school was a ramshackle as you know it out of movies, so was the rest of the school, but it represents a beautiful place for the kids and also it is a fixed meeting point for them every Friday. While we were waiting more and more children came out of every different direction with big smiles on their faces because they were so excited to play football with us. None of the children had real sports clothes, or even proper shoes. Most of them came in Crocs or barefoot. But for them it wasn’t important to wear the newest or best stuff it was just about having an amazing time together. This time the main gate was locked to go on the soccer field. But nothing can hold back the kids to have fun and we all climbed over the nearest wall to get on the field. The children’s ran directly on the ground and it didn´t toke more than 60 seconds until the first game begun.
The boys played amazingly well and were highly motivated. You could tell how grateful they were for this time-out and the playtime, since they usually help their parents sell food or souvenirs after school, every Friday at 4 pm is a fixed date in the calendar. After several games had been played in tournament mode and many lost Croc shoes while kicking the ball, everyone was happy and grateful that someone had taken time for them. We felt the joy of the children and saw the happiness in their eyes. We, too, were moved, super thankful for the experience and we never forget this event! At the end everybody high fived each other and the kids run away as fast as they came with a smile on their faces looking forward to the next Friday!
After this experience we were very impressed by the hostel and its staffs. What we didn’t know at this moment that this wasn´t the end and that the football event was just the beginning. Together with the local primary school the hostel organized a full sports day called “Multideportivo”. All volunteers and friends helped to generate a very special day for the children, who partly come from a difficult family. For the event the hostel organized a huge playground in the nature with a lot of space, trees and also located near the beach of Buritaca. Before the children came, stations such as yoga, dodgeball, football and dance were set up. Also drinks, fruits and snacks were provided. After everything was arranged and ready for the kids Felix (the main organizer of this event) motivated us with some amazing words, we trained the team dances and everybody got super stocked for the upcoming hours.
When the children arrived, they marched in rows of two on the field and even had signs with the team names for different groups. As a special greeting all groups were allowed to walk through a motivational tunnel and to clap their hands with all helpers. Already at this time most of the children beamed over both ears. We never seen so happy children before. Just look at the pictures and enjoy their happiness. After the allocation of the groups to their team leaders they had time to consider a team dance or a team sign. Since the team names were animals like lions, sharks or champions, this was not difficult for anyone. So, for example the sharks dance was walking with one hand on the head like a fin and moving slowly like a shark. Or the team lions roaring super loud and moved like a big majestic cat.
Afterwards every team was brought by their team leaders to their first game station. Some of them went to Yoga, to the soccer ground or the dancing station. Lisa helped at the Yoga station and saw how positive the soft sport was for the children. Some of them were suddenly very quiet and concentrated, relaxed and could even stretch bridges and handstands! Independent of the station you could experience and see pure joy and fun in the faces of the kids.
Meanwhile Franz walked past every station and captured the atmosphere in pictures. Again and again children approached him to have a photo taken of them or simply to hug him. These feelings of happiness were transmitted to everyone who took part in this event. Above all, you could see that it doesn’t take much to be happy. We would like to share this thought with you once again: remember how easy, carefree and happy it was as a child and remind yourself that perhaps you had a more beautiful childhood than children on other continents will have- where children have to work and cannot really be children- where they have few toys and don’t sink into luxury like sometimes we do. At his point we could write more thousand words trying to describe the amazing vibe of this day but the pictures speak for themself. So just enjoy them and be a part of this day! 🙂
At the end we just can say thank you El Rio Hostel to let us be a part of this amazing days and experiences with the kids. It showed us that the most time we don’t need a lot to be happy and that we people don’t need a lot to make other people happy. Therefore, we can only encourage each guest of the hostel and other interested parties if you are around Buritaca check them out, help them with their volunteering and have a unforgettable time!
If you want to help from somewhere else you can donate money to the El Rio foundation (glass at the reception or online) so that more children can have a smile on their faces and enjoy a better life in Buritaca. If you want to see more pictures of the event check out our PhotoInspiration of Colombia!
We are looking forward to return to this amazing place and will never forget your guys and all the happy kids!!!