Cathy Howard and her children, Billy and Rachel, have loved their various family volunteer trips – to Malawi, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Indonesia – and have been planning to explore more of the majestic African terrain ever since.
“We loved our family volunteer holidays, I can’t recommend them enough. Just chatting about them with the family brought back some amazing memories and made us realise how lucky we have been.”
We caught up with Cathy to hear all about their family volunteering holidays in Africa.
CTA: Why do you feel that family volunteering is a good choice as opposed to a ‘normal’ family holiday?
Cathy: “It gives you amazing opportunities to learn first-hand about different cultures and ways of life and become part of the community for a short while, which gives a very different perspective from ‘normal’ holidays. We’ve learned some amazing things about conservation from experts in their fields and had great experiences like tracking rhinos on foot and diving with sharks and whales.”
CTA: What were the people you interacted with like?
Cathy: “The projects seem to attract interesting and like-minded people who are great fun to be with, and the local people and project coordinators are passionate about what they do. The children had an amazing time on the Desert Elephant holiday in Namibia, hanging out with the other children, and were made to feel part of the more adult trips too.
“It’s very rewarding when you achieve something that you feel is helping the project, and, although hard work, the Namibia project was especially good at this. Both Billy and Rachel said they had much more interesting holidays than their friends!”
CTA: You have visited us a few times on various projects. What draws you to choose a particular Conservation Travel Africa programme?
Cathy: “We like to visit different countries and the chance to get close to wildlife. We try to look for programmes that give lots of opportunity to get involved and help. It’s also very important to us to feel we are on an ethical project and even if we can’t help much at least the money is going to a good cause.”
CTA: How old were your children when you first volunteered, and where did you go?
Cathy: “Our first experience was visiting a school in Malawi, Billy was 12 at the time and Rachel 11. We spent a day at the school with the children and although it was a small part of our trip it had a big impact on us. The following year we did the first family project with the Desert Elephants in Namibia, and were completely hooked.”
CTA: Did you feel safe travelling in Africa?
Cathy: “Yes, we love Africa! We felt completely comfortable and safe with the loveliest people you could wish to meet.”
CTA: What activities or experiences have been your stand-outs amongst any or all of the projects you’ve been on?
Cathy: “Here are a few highlights:
- Being charged by a Rhino
- Diving with humpback whales
- Snorkeling and diving with whale sharks and giant mantas
- Teaching the kids at the school in Zimbabwe
- Becoming part of the local community, even if just for a short while
- Playing football with the kids at school in Zimbabwe (Billy)
- Drinking games in Mozambique (Rachel!)
- Sleeping under the stars and in the tree in the Namibian desert
- The feeling of satisfaction at building the elephant garden in Namibia
- Becoming part of the community on a small island in Indonesia and seeing birds of paradise
- The many wonderful people we’ve met along the way
- So, so many more!”
CTA: Do you feel the experience of volunteering in Africa has had a lasting positive effect on your children? In what way?
Cathy: “I hope so! They have more knowledge and understanding of other cultures and conservation issues and an appreciation of what they have.
Rachel is interested in a career in marine biology/ conservation which stems from her experiences in Mozambique. I hope it’s given them a curiosity and confidence to explore the world and a desire to give back where they can. But currently they are just teenagers!”
Cathy and her children were so moved by their experience in Africa and thus far, they have taken part in the following adventures:
- Teaching & Big 5 Conservation, Zimbabwe
- Marine Conservation, Mozambique
- Humpback Whale Research, Mozambique
- Desert Elephant Conservation, Namibia
These experiences tied their hearts to the African continent forever.
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