Volunteer in Africa
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.
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.
While I was there, we were working on a new space for Roger the caracal. We also assisted on daily tours of the facility. In between working, there was plenty of free time to spend quality time with the animals of our choice, including cheetahs, caracals, lions, servals, monkeys, and more.
In the afternoon the volunteers would take the baboons down to the river and watch them play and socialize for about an hour. This also gave us time to socialize and become very close friends and family. The baboons would grab my legs and hands when they wanted me to carry them as we walked down to the river. This was my favorite part of the day.
One of my favorite aspects of my project was “baby time.” On this day, one group would be in charge of taking care of the baby monkeys. We fed them bottles, spent time in their enclosures, took the baboons to the river, prepared their night boxes, and much more. This allowed us to develop a connection with the baby monkeys, which was so unique.
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.
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 two weeks at the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary were the best and happiest days of my life. I learned so much. Kevin and his team sacrifice so much just to make these animals lives the best possible. It really is true, once you leave the sanctuary and Africa, you are a changed person. You won’t look at life the same. I have so many wonderful memories that can never be taken from me.
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.
Upon arriving, I was terrified. I was 18 years old and had never traveled anywhere alone before, let alone engaged in transcontinental travel alone. I had no idea what to expect for the next three weeks. Almost immediately, I learned that nothing could have enriched me more than traveling and volunteering, the abrupt thrust into the unknown that mandates meeting new people, understanding new cultures, trusting, collaborating, listening, and learning.
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.
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