Family volunteering in Zimbabwe – “It was life-changing”

Pam Galenkamp and her family, from Georgia, USA, volunteered at the Rhino & Elephant Conservation Programme in June this year. They also took a side trip to Namibia as well, but we will cover that in a separate post! The experience they had at the Imire project was summed up by Pam’s 11-year old daughter, who said “it was life-changing”. The Galenkamps returned home to the USA, and were so inspired by the program and the people, that they brought that enthusiasm home in very tangible ways.

Pam has written a review of the family’s volunteer experience on Tripadvisor (read the full review here), and we have included excerpts below, plus some other feedback. We hope it encourages other families to take the plunge and bring their children on a unique family holiday.

“My family of four (11 & 13 year old) spent two amazing weeks at Imire in June. It is difficult to embody the experience in words. My 11 year old daughter responded when asked about the trip that “…it was life changing”. And indeed it was. We have travelled all over the world and Imire is the first place we have decided to return to- with plans to return in 2020.”
(Update: since Pam wrote this post, they already returned to join the Rhino Collaring Operation a few weeks after!).

If you are at all inclined to do volunteer work abroad- this is a wonderful place to visit. Solo OR with family.

“Imire (meaning “waiting place” or “it stands” in Shona) is 4,500 hectares (over 11,000 acres) in total. It is broken up into three main areas- a volunteer program, a tourist lodge, and a farm. Each section is run by a member of the Travers family – a legacy left by Norman Travers when he purchased the land in 1946. There is a book if you would like to read more about the beginnings of Imire entitled Imire: The Life & Times of Norman Travers as Told to Cathy Buckle. All three entities contribute back into the local community and conservation program. There is much to say about this wonderful family and all they have done for the land and local community.

“The volunteer program hosts 12 to 24 people. They have a volunteer house, Numwa, that sits overlooking the water and has a pool. This year they added the Chiwawe tented camp which is situated by a watering hole in the bush.

We were the very first people to stay at Chiwawe and were given the entire camp to ourselves for a week – it was a serene setting and we often had visits from giraffe by our tents. Some nights the rhinos were nearby as well!

“The volunteering consists of three fairly unique activities per day ranging from rhino care and tracking, bee-keeping, gardening, elephant walks & enrichment, school visits, game drives, collecting hay from the fields, and harder labor such as building structures or digging up roots. Everything that we did was a necessary activity and we truly felt that we were contributing to the upkeep of the program.


“Three meals are provided per day and all of our meals we had were fresh, colorful, and delicious. The cooking staff were top drawer! Our daily guide was Morris and I cannot even begin to explain how wonderful he was – a treasure. Diogo oversaw the Chiwawe Camp and was also fantastic with the kids – particularly my older son. Vera & Sam oversee the program and are a passionate and thoughtful couple.

“The impact it had on our children;

“My two children have been greatly impacted by the experience they had. Part of that impact was working alongside older volunteers that treated them with respect and as equals. They were so inspired by the program and the people, that they brought that enthusiasm home in very tangible ways. My daughter (11) organized a fundraiser and raised over $700 for Imire, while educating people about the plight of the rhino and organizations that help. My son (now 14) created a presentation for his school that was presented twice to students and once to the school administration, also regarding the plight of the rhino and organizations that help – this was not for a grade, just because he thought it important. My son is already planning a career in conservation – planning to take dual enrollment courses in college while attending high school, so that he can take a year to volunteer in conservation after high school – this was all inspired by Imire.

family volunteers with elephants

This program has been inspiring to my family and believe will continue to impact not only us but other families over the ages.

“We are greatly looking forward to our return in 2020.”

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To join the Rhino & Elephant Conservation family project, please click on the link below, or click to see all our projects for family volunteers. If you have any questions at all, please drop us an email, we would love to help!

Program for family volunteers

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