The Monkey and Wildlife Rehabilitation Center project exceeded all expectations of volunteering. The rehab center is run by a loving, hardworking, and caring family. I quickly became friends with the family and all volunteer workers. Riverside is owned by a family and therefore, although professional in all necessary regards, works like a family. For example, the volunteers feel cared for by the owners and other volunteers. The Riverside family without fail have breakfast and dinner with all volunteers. We sit down and eat with the owners, and talk as friends and co-workers. Moreover, the family has good ambitions and goals, they are not focused on money or publicity. They care for the safety of the workers, volunteers, and correctly rehabilitating wildlife.
Also, I personally got to experience far more cultures than just South African. The passionate and good works attracted so many diverse people to volunteer! I now have friends from all across the world, from my country in the US, to Switzerland, the Netherlands, Japan, Brazil, and the UK! It was so wonderful to have such diverse friends all from different backgrounds come together for this one charitable act of volunteering.
The volunteers have our daily morning tasks before and after breakfast. Midday is everyone’s favorite time. We go on the baboon walk (it’s amazing and exactly how it sounds) to the river, have lunch, then have free time to bond with the other animals. After afternoon chores, volunteers are encouraged to play and interact with the monkeys before dinner (and yes, this means hands-on experience!). After dinner, volunteers have the night off to relax and socialize with one another. There is never a dull night! There was also an opportunity twice a week to go into the nearest town to get any supplies we wanted, go out to a restaurant on friday nights, and on some weekends go to tourist attractions as a group!
One thing I can always be thankful for is the hands-on experience with these animals. This is not a stereotypical rehab center. I was worried that I would not get hands-on experience with the monkeys, but simply watch them in an enclosure from afar and only prep their food. This was not the case! Not only have I had more monkeys fall asleep in my arms after a long day of playing with them, but I also made a unique relationship with each one! If you go to …prepare for the unexpected. Prepare to get your hands dirty. But most of all, prepare to have a life-changing experience. It was difficult saying goodbye to the animals, the family, and the amazing volunteers. I can’t wait to go back!