Family volunteers in 2019 made up nearly a quarter of our volunteers – the largest number that we’ve ever seen. This firmly demonstrates that volunteering is moving to the forefront of people’s minds when looking for a unique family experience.
Another trend we saw really take off this year, which we love, was multi-generational family volunteer trips – mum, dad, grandparents and grandchildren, all participating together. We also saw a number of parent-child holidays – sometimes a last adventure together before heading off to university, or just a special mother-daughter or father-son bonding and reconnection trip.
It’s definitely never too early to bring your kids to Africa (in our opinion!), and this year we saw families with children as young as two take the plunge and join the fun.
We hope these photos and testimonials from family volunteers in 2019 will inspire you to bring your family to our one of volunteer programmes, where you can participate together in much-needed, often dirty, but always fulfilling and fun activities! If you’re nervous to bring your families on this kind of experience, we would be happy to direct you to some of our ex-family volunteers, who can hopefully reassure you that the adventure is definitely worth it!
Our Zimbabwe projects saw the bulk of our family volunteers this year, overtaking Namibia, which has in the past been the most popular family volunteering destination. Zimbabwe has seen somewhat of a resurgence in tourism over the last few years, and despite its economic challenges, the draw of the wildlife, people and landscapes is certainly compelling.
Rhino & Elephant Conservation, Zimbabwe
“We took a bit of a gamble bringing two young boys in to Africa for the first time. We really could not have hoped for more, and we had an unforgettable experience with a splendid team. The boys loved every single day and everyone made a real effort to make the youngsters welcome. Josh and Trymore were both great guides and all the staff were very accommodating with all our special requests for the kids. Thank you!” – Barker family (children aged 6 and 8)
With activities including rhino tracking and feeding, walking with elephants, bush skills and shovelling elephant poop, it’s little wonder that this project is proving so popular with families! Families with children younger than 14 are accommodated in a brand-new wilderness tented camp, complete with their own guide, cooks, housekeepers and communal living space.
“Watching my daughter live her dream of helping rhinos and also making friends with the kids at Numwa School has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I loved this experience, making friends with the other volunteers and the community… it is one of the most memorable experiences my daughter and I have ever had. I think if you love animals and also want to make a difference in the world, this is a beautiful program.” – Jennifer and Elizabeth (14)
The community aspect of this project is one of the highlights – really differentiating the project from an ordinary family safari. The wildlife encounters are unique (10 rhinos, three elephants, buffalo, giraffe, plains game and an elderly lion), but the cultural experiences and community visits are often the highlight for families.
“I was touched by what we saw in the Shona culture, spending time with a group of women who were dedicating themselves 5 days a week to empowering girls to stay in school through their efforts to provide menstruation supplies, as well as other activities to benefit girls in their communities. We also spent time with a local Shona family to learn about their culture, including an attempt to teach us how to carry water on our heads! I loved every minute of my time there, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.” – Galenkamp family (aged 13 and 11)
And for people who aren’t sure whether their children are old enough to contribute:
“We spent a week here on the volunteer program with our 9 year old twins. We’ve been around the world and have done and seen so many things, and yet this was BY FAR our best vacation ever. I enjoyed a safari I was on previously, but this was a totally different experience. Here, you can connect with the wildlife in a totally different way. We fed the rhinos and elephants, cleaned the stalls, picked up litter, and helped fix fences. We were able to hike through the savannah (which is SO emotionally different than going on safari in a jeep). I was hesitant with the kids about volunteering (more because I didn’t think they would have the endurance/ability to be helpful), but thought it would be a great experience. The kids had a blast and were so thrilled to be there they didn’t want to leave to go on the relaxing safari portion of our trip afterwards! I can’t think of anyone that wouldn’t love this trip.” – Manasa family (9 year old twins)
Primate Conservation & Wildlife Sanctuary, Zimbabwe
One of the only reputable, ethical and genuine wildlife sanctuaries in Africa to accept family volunteers, our programme in western Zimbabwe has hosted a number of family groups, and is experienced at working with children of all ages. They are passionate about creating the ‘wildlife warriors’ of the future, and encourage children to undertake nature projects during their stay.
For a full review from the Cox family, who volunteered in June please click here.
“My children and I learned so much from this experience, and I learned so much about my children. They showed me how easily adaptable they are and how much they care about all animals, it makes my heart explode with pride!”
Family volunteers are hosted in a recently renovated accommodation block with its own kitchen and housekeeper. Be prepared to be joined in all your daily activities by a variety of animals, who love to be involved in absolutely everything that is going on!
“There were so many funny and wonderful experiences that we had as a family. One of my favourite memories was of my children having a bath in a wash tub while the resident zebra drank the water while they were still in it, and Marlin the cockatoo chatting away at them at the same time!” – Cox family (aged 11 and 5)
Elephant Conservation and Community Outreach, Namibia
Our family project in Namibia is our longest-running family volunteer programme, with guides hugely experienced in engaging children and adults alike in the arts of happy camping, dirty work and collecting more elephant poop (here in Namibia, also a surprisingly very important and worthwhile activity!). On this project, disconnect completely with the outside world, and appreciate Namibia’s vast, varied and always spectacular landscapes. Volunteers camp under the stars, tucked up snugly in comfortable tents, with nothing but canvas between you and the night skies.
“We are so thankful for the opportunity to camp out in this beautiful landscape under a blanket of stars. I still dream about the base camp – what an incredible place, straight out of a fairy tale. The kids had so much fun running around, enjoying the open spaces and freedom.” – Jackson family (aged 11, 8, 6)
Photo credit © Christin Winter
Family groups are allocated a community project to work on during their build week – a project decided on by the community themselves, according to what is most needed at the time. You can be sure that the work you are doing will benefit the village, whether it being building new elephant-proof walls, painting and maintaining schools, or creating new (elephant-proof) vegetable gardens. On your second week, you will head out into the rocky Damaraland moonscape to locate the remote herds of desert-adapted elephants. With plenty of breaks for walks, climbing and learning about birds and animals, this part of the project is a unique and special experience.
“Our kids loved playing with the other children in the group. We all enjoyed painting the school and felt like we had made a real contribution. Watching the children playing with the kids from the school was very special, as was seeing the desert elephants and sleeping under the stars at the beautiful base camp. It was wonderful to connect with other families from around the world and the project was super-organized and very well run.” – Welsh family (aged 11 and 8)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –