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BURLINGTON, P.E.I. - There are many things Ramón Velasco Alfonzo will miss about P.E.I., but it’s leaving his friends that will weigh on him the most.
“This is my second time visiting the Island. I’ve been here for six months this time, and I’ve loved living here,” he said.
Alfonzo, who hails from Mexico, is on the Island while participating in the Workaway Program.
“It works like Facebook. You create a profile and hope to connect with someone for a period of time, up to six months,” explained Alfonzo.
Jobs for billets vary, depending on the host.
After his arrival mid-summer, Alfonzo helped his host, Stacy MacInnis, with work on his one-acre property in Burlington.
“It can be a lot of work for one person, and I appreciated the help,” said MacInnis.
Alfonzo raked leaves and tended to the gardens, among other duties.
“I learned how to cut the lawn, and now I’ve seen snow for the first time, so I’ll learn how to shovel snow, too.”
Alfonzo said the fact a person can experience all four seasons on P.E.I. is another reason he enjoys living on the Island.
“In the area I’m from, there are five times as many people as the population here. Life there is always rushed, but on P.E.I. everything is peaceful. Everyone has been so kind to me and welcoming.”
Those who have helped him feel at home are his cast members in the Fandango Musical Players Inc. production of “Sister Act”.
In the production, Alfonzo played a thug named Pablo.
“Stacy was also in the production. (It) has really made me feel welcome. It’s been really special.”
Now Alfonzo is preparing to leave the Island on Dec. 15, but first he’s hoping to decide his next steps.
“I may go to work in a teaching job in Nicaragua. I’m an English teacher, so I have an interview about a position tomorrow. Part of the reason I wanted to participate in the exchange was to help figure out my next steps, if I wanted to continue to work as a teacher or find another career path,” said the 25-year-old.
MacInnis, who has housed 15 billets since February, said each person’s journey is different.
“The first work away-er I had was a young man from Germany. He was taking a year in between high school and university and decided to participate in the program to help decide which direction he may go in,” he said.
Some workers only stay a few weeks, others stay a full six months.
“I’ve had visitors from Brazil, France, Japan, Germany, the U.S. and western Canada. Everyone is on their journey, and it’s gratifying to be part of their discovery. Maybe it will be something I try, too,” said the retiree.
“Everybody needs a break sometimes to really get a chance to immerse themselves in a new culture. It’s really meaningful.”