Margaret Hunter — Chilito Lindo — “Beautiful Little Chile”

January 15, 2015

Twenty days in South America will teach you many lessons, including how to immerse one’s self in a different country’s culture.

Margaret Hunter, a 24-year old senior majoring in social work at Saint Leo University, spent July 2-22 in Chile as part of an Yvain Scholarship trip. Yvain grants offer selected students the opportunity to apply for Saint Leo support to pursue a personal academic subject of interest. In Ms. Hunter’s case, she volunteered with the WWOOF program – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. The organization links volunteers with organic farms and growers.

She spent her first week in the country in El Monte, volunteering on a farm. Her duties consisted of light housework (cooking and cleaning), and taking care of the animals. The major project was the construction of a natural swimming pool.

“The system consisted of a constructed body of water contained by isolating membranes,” said Ms. Hunter. “No water sterilizing or disinfecting chemicals or devices were used, and all the water clarifying and purifying was achieved through biological filters and plants rooted hydroponically in the system” stated Hunter.

Step One: Digging

Step Two: More digging; begin to cover with tarp

Step Three: Water, plants, and rocks added

“I would love to volunteer with WWOOF again,” she said. “Digging holes by hand was very labor-intensive, but I really enjoyed it and it gave me great satisfaction when the project was completed.”

During her second week, Ms. Hunter took a bus to Puerto Montt in southern Chile and stayed with a woman who toured her around Puerto Varas. She explored several natural parks, and her host assisted Ms. Hunter in arranging a day tour of Patagonia.

The third week, she traveled to Chile’s capital, Santiago, where she stayed in a hostel and reconnected with a friend she hadn’t seen in a decade. Her friend acted as a tour guide of the city. They visited a museum, La Moneda, the Chilean White House, and spent time with her friend’s family.

“Seeing my friend and catching up with her for the first time in 10-11 years was a special experience,” Hunter remarked. “Staying in a hostel and exploring the capital city with a group of students was also one of the highlights of the trip,” the Saint Leo student stated.

When asked about repeating the Yvain program and recommending it to others, Ms. Hunter was enthusiastic: “I’d definitely do it again! I had a great time and I learned a lot. I would endorse the experience for all students.”

All of these experiences readied the undergraduate for her current social work internship, which began this month in Haiti and which will run through April. Among other projects, her work will include developing a curriculum for students in Jacmel, Haiti. She’s previously been to the country and welcomed the opportunity to help students rebuild their community center into an “Earth Ship,” a radically sustainable structure.

For more information about the Yvain Scholarship Program and other Saint Leo University study abroad opportunities, visit www.saintleo.edu/TravelAbroad.