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Giving Back

Giving Backing in the Maldives

by Morten Lykke Olsen

Giving Backing in the Maldives

Making friends in the Maldives. Photo courtesy of Atoll Volunteers.

How's this for a great idea: Take a volunteer trip to the Maldives. Atoll Volunteers coordinator Morten Lykke Olsen shares her impressions of the small island nation of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea.

Lay of the Land

I was drawn to the Maldives after hearing stories from a friend who had done the same volunteer coordinator internship with Atoll Volunteers. When I thought of the Maldives, my mind conjured images of luxurious, isolated resorts spread across white sand beaches. Pretty awesome.

But I quickly learned there was more to the island nation in the Indian Ocean. Namely, a rich culture and history accompanied by an amazing natural environment. Upon landing in the city of Male, I experienced Maldivian hospitality firsthand — the locals were friendly and engaging. I'm still close with many of them.

The Project and Benefits

I worked as Atoll's volunteer coordinator for six months in 2013. I oversaw all of the organization's projects and volunteer programs and functioned as the daily manager.

Atoll runs programs — two through twelve weeks at a time — that focus on building a strong, self-sustainable communities throughout the islands. Activities stress community development, marine research, and education on the islands. The great thing is being able to see the benefits at work in the local communities of the Lhaviyani Atoll.

You would think six months would be enough time spent in paradise, but all I can think about is when I'll return again to see my local friends and cool group of international volunteers.

The Volunteers

A trip with Atoll Volunteers is best for those seeking to make an appreciable contribution to the lives of the people and the natural environment of the incredible Maldives. I cannot stress how beautiful the natural surroundings are. There is really no specific target group for the trip — I led groups of volunteers of all ages, occupations, and nationalities.

The Best Part

During a snorkeling trip, I swam alongside a large hawksbill turtle for about a minute, until I ran out of air. We made eye contact with each other the entire time. It was a truly extraordinary moment that really made me appreciate the wonders of the natural world. Knowing that I played a tiny part in preserving it is a great feeling.

The Lesson

Enjoy the moment. Simple as that. Westerners worry too much about time, deadlines, and other monotonous daily stresses. We forget to notice the small things that make a bad day better. The people of the Maldives don't seem to know the word "stress" — we could all learn helpful life tips from some time on the islands and their chilled out locals.

The Million-Dollar Question

Would I do it again? Definitely. I have already made arrangements.

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