IVHQ volunteer Sarah Hobaiter has struggled with claustrophobia for her whole life - until volunteering abroad with IVHQ. Read on to see how she conquered her fears by scuba diving on the Marine Conservation program in Belize…
Out of all of the spectacularly rich programs IVHQ has to offer, I chose Marine Conservation in Belize as I felt this program would challenge me the most on an individual level. I knew it would expand my horizons and help get me out of my comfort zone.
How so? Since a young age, I’ve always struggled with claustrophobia. It has complicated my life on so many levels and I tend to always take the easy way out. For example, I avoid taking the elevator if I have the option of taking the stairs. I didn’t want to continue down this path, so I chose to take on an activity that would challenge my claustrophobia in every possible way. What better way to start on that journey than with scuba diving? And, in one of the most beautiful and diverse coral reefs in the world, no less – Belize.
Overcoming my fears by volunteering with IVHQ
This program has completely changed my life. I met incredible, like-minded people who encouraged me to get outside of my comfort zone everyday, never allowing me to just give up. The staff were genuinely the nicest and coolest people ever. They took care of us, taught us everything we needed to know and were always there for us.
Shoutout to my dive instructor, Luis. My biggest trigger for claustrophobia was going into deep water. It didn’t come naturally to me and it made me feel stuck and overwhelmed. At the beginning of the trip, I would feel a panic creep up because of the water’s depth, but Luis was always there to calm me down and encourage me to keep going. He challenged me to set goals everyday, which ended up showing me the beautiful things the ocean had to offer. Thanks to these amazing people, I was able to stretch beyond what I knew and do things I never imagined myself doing.
A five-star volunteer experience
The island we stayed on was truly a peaceful sanctuary. With no wifi or phone signal, in the middle of the ocean away from everything, we were able to focus on the present moment. It allowed us to be connected with our surroundings and make the most of our experience. We got to chill on the beautiful hammocks, read books, get to know each other, paddle board and work out in the coolest gym built by the staff.
The food also exceeded my expectations. Everything was cooked from scratch by a local chef who was extremely talented and poured his soul into every meal. No meals were repeated and we were fed three times a day (including snacks).
As for the daily schedule: everyday we completed three dives and sat in on two presentations, learning about lionfish and how they were impacting the local marine ecosystem. The program’s goal was for us to manage the lionfish population in order to protect the coral reefs and maintain a healthy, balanced ocean.
I am forever grateful for this program and plan to go back for a longer time in the future. I can’t wait to see what my next trip with IVHQ will encompass.
Are you inspired by Sarah’s story? Learn more about how you can boost your own wellbeing this year by volunteering with IVHQ.