Ninth Wave Global, Mexico

19 March 2019

Florence spent a month in Campeche, Mexico working with Ninth Wave Global who connect like-minded people with those who run sustainable businesses. Hear about her varied and satisfying summer abroad.

ninth wave global
Florence Wildblood, English

I spent a month living and working in the city of Campeche on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, with an environmental think tank/organisation called Ninth Wave Global. Ninth Wave runs expeditions all over the world, but they are based primarily in Campeche, where they aim to connect like-minded local people who run sustainable businesses. This involves the running of a city-wide green business initiative, and a weekly green market. On top of this, I did some research into Latin American politics for talkRADIO, and assisted another organisation called Live Green. Live Green organise educational workshops and programmes for young people, focusing on the benefits of a zero-waste lifestyle. They also market a range of products geared towards helping people to gradually reduce their impact on the environment. 

The average week was very busy, as it would typically involve administration work in the office in the morning and running a workshop in the evening. These workshops included as English language conversation group and a bilingual ‘Green Explorers’ club for young children. On Saturday mornings, I woke up early to set up for the green market, where we sold sustainable produce from soap and cleaning products to the many varieties of plants grown in my hosts’ garden. The community surrounding Ninth Wave and Live Green is incredibly strong, with many of the same people attending events regularly. I met lots of people - whether local students volunteering alongside university or business owners - and felt very welcome straight away. 

I decided to go to Mexico over the summer after stumbling across Ninth Wave on Facebook. I have travelled for several months in Latin America before, but had always wanted to visit Mexico, and was immediately taken by the ethos and principles of the organisation. As an English student who wants to go into journalism in the future - writing specifically about Latin America - I felt it was important to travel so as to practise my Spanish and to learn more about Mexico’s history, politics and natural environment. Getting a grant from UCL made this process significantly more straightforward; it meant that I was able to focus on my learning and the work I was doing, and that going abroad for a fairly lengthy period of time did not feel like such a big undertaking. 

church campeche

No day was ever the same, and I enjoyed the variety of tasks I did. The work was full-on and often exhausting, but because everyone around me was so passionate about what they were doing, it rarely felt like ‘work’ as such and I was happy to invest as much time as possible. As someone who has always been sceptical of ‘voluntourism’, it was great to find an organisation that were less concerned about their reputation than about devising real solutions in an understated but effective way. 

Campeche is a small city and the pace of life is completely different to that in London, but once I’d adapted to this, I found it to be a welcome change. It was great that not everyone I met spoke English, as it meant I had to communicate in Spanish even on days when I wasn’t feeling particularly confident in my language skills. Beyond the work I did, I was also able to explore the area around Campeche; the various day-trips I took, to the beach and to Mayan ruins, for example, were definitely some of my highlights. On my last day, we hired a van and drove to a  beautiful cenote to go swimming and have a picnic. It was a lovely end to the trip, and it was so nice to spend quality time with the other volunteers and the family I was staying with, who had been consistently welcoming and generous throughout my stay. 

I would really recommend a short term global opportunity to anyone who is unsure about going abroad. Finding out I could get a bursary from UCL was the incentive I needed to go away during the holidays, and I’m so thankful that I did. I learnt a huge amount, particularly about the environment - how necessary it is to educate ourselves and reduce individual impact, and how easy it can be - and have made many changes to my own lifestyle since getting back to the UK.

beach mexico