Volunteering with your Kids. Saving the Baby Turtles in Mexico, Sayulita
While traveling through South- and Central America with my kids we have volunteered on several occasions. Looking back those have been the most precious moments shared. Moments of bonding and growth. Not just for me, but also for the kids. It has exposed them to pieces of unsheltered real-life they would otherwise be sheltered from. Like volunteering at an orphanage. Sure, they had heard of orphanages, but they had never seen, touched, breathed, experienced the concept of being an orphanage. And there they were, playing with those beautiful kids, side by side. It has expanded their horizons and minds, enriched their visions, becoming a new generation of conscious and tolerant human beings.
Traveling into Mexico
We fly from Lima into Mexico City, a city with over twenty million citizens. The mere thought of emerging ourselves into the chaos of such monstrous of cities makes me feel vulnerable, naked to the bone, now that our journey is leading us away from the safety of the small, local communities that we have resided in. Local communities where we knew our neighbors, where food was being shared, where chickens and dogs were our friends. Where the only crowd is local families traveling to the coast on the weekends. Wild horses on the beach. Cows holding up the occasional traffic. And now we are heading to this grand capital Mexico City. From here we’ll continue to Sayulita, a relatively small (but touristy) beach and surf town on the Pacific coast. On our way to exploring our new, temporary, home away from home.
Sayulita, ‘el pueblo magico’
We are in awe of the vibration of this colorful coastal town. There’s love flowing, everywhere you look. Signs that read ‘amor’ and ‘love’. Mexican pieces of street art. A true revolution of hearts. You cannot walk through this buzzing little surfers town without feeling òr spreading the love. Sure, there is the obvious (young) party-scene, but more importantly, there is a conscious community rising. There are organic shops and markets, yoga, natural healing and volunteering options. Like I said, we have been around South and Central America, but Sayulita truly breathes something unique.
Saving the baby turtles
On one of our strolls along the beach, we encounter a small garden-like community. It looks inviting, open, and has a little handmade bar where friends seem to come together. The place has an easy going, home-like vibe to it. When we stop and talk to the friendly and talkative Odette she happily explains us all about the project she co-founded. Campamento Tortuguero is a non-profit organization which focuses on protecting sea turtles and educating the local community on environmental issues. They do morning and evening beach walks looking for turtle nests (and to prevent poaching). Everyone, adults and children, are welcome to join the walks. It’s a beautiful, peaceful walk, starting just before the sun comes up. Depending on the season (September is the peak for finding nests) there are nests to be found on an almost daily base. For children it’s like a magical treasure hunt which, if lucky, leads to finding the eggs and bringing them to the safety of the hatchery. In the evenings you may be treated to seeing a mother turtle lay her eggs right before your eyes. An almost spiritual event that will not leave you untouched. During high-season there will be almost daily turtle releases at sunset. It takes 45 days before the baby turtles are born and ready to be released into their natural habitat, the Pacific Ocean. All the volunteers (locals, expats & tourists) come together and may personally release the turtles so that they can find their way to freedom. Other activities may include cleaning the nests, raising donations and helping around the hatchery. The ambiance is laid-back and very friendly, feel free to pass by whenever you like. There’s no need to sign-up.
As I said before volunteering with your children exposes your children to an unsheltered piece of real-life. They are not experiencing the world as a spectator, they are exploring first hand. They can see these tiny turtles, feel their vulnerability and hold them, creating compassion. Creating awareness, a sense of responsibility, truly understanding the whole picture that goes beyond the letters in a book or the images on a screen. Holding, and releasing one of those tiny, tiny Olive Ridley baby sea turtles is a beautifully unique experience that may change the way you (and your children) look at nature, waste, the ocean, and humankind forever.
If You Go
- Official website of Red Tortuguero in Mexico http://redtortuguera.org/camps/sayulita.php#.WDc1bbIrLIU
- Facebook page for (daily) turtle releases etc https://www.facebook.com/campamentotortuguero.sayulita.9