When I arrived at the Bulawayo Airport I remember feeling anxious and excited! It was the first time I was traveling out of the country and I had no idea what to expect. I was met at the airport by Nikki Wilson and her son Ryan, who were part of the staff. They were so friendly and comforting; they immediately put me at ease. When we arrived at the African Wildlife Orphanage project Nikki gave me a quick tour of the center so I could navigate it on my own. After unpacking and meeting the other volunteers, I was told I could help with feeding some of the baby animals. I was all for jumping right in and helping, after all it is what I was there for!
After about a week we got enough volunteers to split into four groups where each group worked in a different area of the orphanage. The different sections included working with carnivores, primates, and antelope. Also, two groups were in charge of the babies each day. It was nice because every day you were doing something different. The first day I was working with the carnivores, so we were in charge of cleaning one of the two big enclosures that housed five male lions. We also had to clean out the pond which meant getting down and dirty with a bucket and emptying it by hand. Once the pond was clean and filled with new water, we got all the bones and uneaten food out. We also got the lions new grass and cleaned and refilled their water bowls. Each section was very similar; you made sure the animals had water and food and you helped with what needed to be cleaned.
We not only helped at the Orphanage, but also in the community. I participated in a cancer walk, which was a great experience. We visited schools and gave the children pens, pencils, cardboard boxes, and tin cans so they could do arts and crafts. The children were so kind and polite and extremely thankful for the art supplies. We also visited schools and took animals to teach the children about the wildlife that lives around them. It was great getting into the local community and educating others on the importance of Zimbabwe’s natural environment.
I can tell you that volunteering in Zimbabwe was an amazing experience! I enjoyed every single moment of it from the animals I took care of to the awesome people I met and the amazing trips I took. If you even have a remote interest in volunteering in Africa, DO IT! Great people and great times! So what are you waiting for? Get out there! I was nervous to leave my home, but now Africa has stolen my heart. I will definitely be back!