“We had an amazing time and one we will never forget. My children feel like they made a difference in the lives of the animals, and I learned so much about animal welfare and care.”
Words from Danielle, a family volunteer at our Primate Conservation & Sanctuary Programme in Zimbabwe. Volunteering with your family is a perfect way to get your kids excited about nature, stuck into some good, old-fashioned dirty work, and experience Africa in a completely new and different way (see our blog ‘Why you should volunteer with your family in Africa‘).
We caught up with Danielle upon her return to Canada, to ask her a few questions about her experience volunteering with her family in Zimbabwe.
CTA: Why did you choose this particular volunteer project?
D: “It was the only family orientated wildlife sanctuary project that I could find, which allowed my young children be part of the project.”
CTA: Tell us about your experience with the project staff
D: “The staff were very friendly and extremely helpful! The kitchen is very basic and it was essential for me and therefore my family (!) that we had help with the cooking. We could then, as a family, focus our full attention on the animals. Numsa was amazing and helped us with all our cooking and cleaning.”
CTA: What do you feel you all took away from the volunteer program?
D: “My father had a farm in South Africa when I was young and I remember how baboons were hated. I never knew I could love a baboon so much. My whole view of baboons has completely changed and I am so glad that I have learned this lesson. What I learned from volunteering with my young children is that we need to educate the next generation as much as we can, so that we can inspire the next generation of conservation-warriors!
“My young family volunteered for a week and we wish it had been longer! We still think about the animals and the connections we made with them.
“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!”
CTA: Do you feel that you made a positive contribution to the sanctuary?
D: “I think as we were there for only a week we only touched the tip of the iceberg. But we did feel like we contributed greatly with the day to day care of the animals, and we learnt so much.”
CTA: What activity did you enjoy the most, and why?
D: “Working with the animals was what it was all about! Our favourite things to do as a family were the bush walks and the orphan sits. My eldest daughter LOVED getting up early in the morning to do the morning feed for all the animals, especially being in charge of finding and bottle feeding the baby duiker, Flax. At 10 years old, she would wake up before anyone and was ready to go. She told me that she loved the responsibility! (But it must be said that she didn’t cut and peel oranges!) My youngest (5 years) was most happy doing the orphan sits.
CTA: What was your most memorable experience?
D: “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!
“Seeing the baby baboon and vervet monkeys climbing all over them was very special. And for me, my personal favourite memory is connecting with the baboons. Talking to them, carrying them, having a baboon jump on my head suddenly with no warning, having a baboon hug me (!) – these are all such special memories.”
“Watching my children take everything in their stride and connecting to the animals, will forever make me smile.”
CTA: Do you have any advice for future participants?
D: “If you are travelling with young children, you must know that they will get very, very, very dirty! I have never been so dirty and yet so happy at the end of the day in my whole life! We wore the same clothes all week (new clothes at night after our showers), because there was no point in washing them!
“It’s very freeing to just accept the filth! :)”
CTA: What other moments will you take from this experience?
D: “There are so many funny moments we took away from the experience! Like bathing my kids in a wash tub with City Boy the zebra drinking the water while they were still in it. Or Marlin the cockatoo chatting away to us all day. Or Coconut, the warthog getting into everything! Or sitting around the fire in the evening, listening to my children talk about their day and telling me they never want to leave. Or watching baboons jump all over my children while they just take it in their stride!
“Volunteering as a family is a very special gift, the shared experience truly brings you closer.
“We had an amazing time and one we will never forget. My children feel like they made a difference in the lives of the animals and I learned so much about animal welfare and care.”
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Danielle and her family volunteered in Zimbabwe on our Primate Conservation & Sanctuary Programme, which is, as you can see, suitable for volunteers of all ages! To see all our family volunteer projects, click here, or if you have any questions at all, please drop us an email and we would love to help you plan a family adventure of a lifetime!