Family Volunteer Vacations
I saw rhinos and cave paintings and had the chance to visit a village, where I met an 82-year-old chief that told me the tale of fighting a leopard that was eating his livestock. His stories were incredible and followed shortly by a dance performance by the children of the village. I could not write about this day with enough detail to do it justice, but believe me when I say it was one of the most memorable days of my life!
Our day started at 7am with making our own breakfast. We would meet with all the staff at 8 for the day’s work which would continue until 4 or 5. We were assigned different jobs with different staff and animals every day. We had baby monkeys which were so cute, but bratty; we took turns bottle feeding and playing with them as well as a little dyker and springbok.
The work at the panda base wasn’t very hard, but it was extremely rewarding. I feel so grateful to have had this once in a lifetime experience, getting up close and personal with the pandas, learning their different personalities, and helping with their conservation. We were also part of an amazing group of volunteers, united by a love of pandas. We all got on really well and generally just had a great time together, both on and off the panda base. I will miss those crazies all most as much as I will miss my adorable new panda friends!
After becoming acquainted with our panda keeper and pandas, we started our first job. It was necessary to clean the cage, removing the bamboo leaves and other garbage. After that, we started to clean their enclosures... In addition, we fed the pandas twice a day with carrot and special bread (named ”panda cake”), and sometimes apples.
The greatest aspects of the project are two. First of all, you really feel useful as local coordinators need our help to take care of all turtles as they are not enough to do the job alone. Second, compared to Ubud, there are less volunteers (around 25, even if they told us that during the high season it can go up to 70). As you are not a lot, no small groups are done; we are all part of a big group, or even better a big family. You really get close to volunteers and to coordinators and cookers.
A few other places in the world, I felt such at ease and in peace. Such impression was reinforced the following week in the island of Nusa Penida, where while helping to conserve the sea turtles and keep the magnificent beaches clean, you also have the chance to explore spots of untapped natural beauty and engage in happy if humorous conversations with the locals, genuinely curious about your home as much as your life story.
Working at the Thailand orphanage was one of the best experiences of my life. The children were so incredibly sweet and eager to learn. The younger children barely knew any English so we had to find ways to communicate with them through pictures and hand motions. After this experience, I really think anyone can learn to be a teacher!
"This is roughly how every day at the orphanage went, each one with little quirks and quiet achievements. I remember how amazing it felt to watch the kids learning and growing, even in such a short space of time while I was there – hearing them say my name, words I had taught them, singing songs I had sung to them or games I had taught them. I began to get to know and love the personalities of each of them, it was so gorgeous
During the second week I volunteered at the orphanage where I played with children aged from 2 to 5. The children there were happy to see you and wanted to play with you. A lot of them wanted to learn English so in order to achieve that they would point at different things and smiled when you told them what it was.
Within minutes the volunteers were buzzing about. A nearby restaurant reported that a nest was hatching in the middle of their dining tables! We grabbed some supplies and headed down the beach. Up ahead we saw a lot of commotion. We joined the crowd just in time to see tiny turtles scrambling in every direction and bystanders grabbing them up and ushering them to the Sea. We got to work right away...
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