Volunteer in South Africa
The sights are of course the thing I will always remember, but there was something that was even more important, the sense of community. It was a project for the animals, but we always worked with people. For me, that was the biggest surprise, all the great people I met there. The staff members were amazing and they were like the other volunteers just great and we all became such fast friends.
My involvement allowed me to avoid being the one-dimensional tourist, but rather to provide meaningful work in the further advancement of research done on the wildlife in Africa. Seeing and working with these beautiful animals has been eye-opening, especially the black and white rhinos. The next 5 years will be critical for the survival of these magnificent creatures. Conservation becomes vital for the survival of the rhino as well as all the species that live in a very unpredictable part of the world.
Those kids taught me that its a choice to be happy every single day and that no matter how bad you think something is, you’re completely wrong. They taught me how to have fun playing patty cake and singing songs. They taught me how to dance and poke fun. And most importantly they taught me how to love something unconditionally and never look back; those kids taught me how to love. And for that, I am forever grateful.
I feel that I gained as much as the children did from my experience that month. I really learned a lot of life lessons from the children and people of the town. One thing that I really enjoyed was getting to teach them new things and see their faces light up with their new found knowledge. I even got to learn a little of the Xhosa language throughout my stay from the children who were not afraid to share. I really enjoyed watching the children progress with the new things that I had taught them throughout my stay. All in all it was a surreal experience that I hope to soon experience again.
Then I discovered the one-month Greater Kruger Area Wildlife Photography and Conservation project. Living at Dumela Lodge in the Greater Kruger Area surrounded by game reserves I returned to the wonderful world of the South African bush. We walked, drove, and camped as we improved our photography skills and captured birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, flora, landscapes, lightening, sunrises and sunsets.
Through the photography aspect of the program I was given the perfect opportunity to increase my photography skills in the midst of one of the most bio diverse places I have ever been. GoEco provided us with amazing photographic opportunities through the many day trips we took. Whether it was Kruger National Park, The Blyde River Canyon, or Khami Reptile Park the photographs turned out absolutely amazing. Not to mention the fantastic daily game drives in local reserves.
Our purpose there was to assist in the data collection of a variety of species, including elephants, rhino, lions, leopards, birds of prey, and many others, to give to conservation organizations that protect these animals and their environments. Without the help of volunteers, the staff wouldn’t be able to collect and maintain all of the information that they need.
The whole experience was humbling, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get up close and personal with all sorts of animals but more importantly to me it helped me learn and understand the troubles that animals are faced with and what this particular organisation is doing to protect endangered species such as the cheetah. I have a lot of fond memories of the people who I worked with and the animals I was fortunate enough to get to know and those memories will never fade.