Volunteer with children & animals in South Africa

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This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
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Volunteer travel - what's it all about

Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.

Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Volunteer with children & animals in South Africa

Environment

We are primarily a conservation education medium, using orphaned wildlife. This is spread to the local community, schools and the under-privileged through our sponsorship. We believe that responsible conservation comes from responsible education. It is all very well being taught about conservation, but to really make an impact there should be care and compassion, which is sadly lacking, particularly in the rural community who primarily see wild animals as a source of food and income, hence the large poaching problem.

The project doesn't have access to electricity and is mainly running with solar energy. This is also a way to show the local community about other clean source of energy.

By paying for your volunteer experience you will be supplying the means for us to support the orphaned wildlife and to sponsor the under-privileged. This in turn will increase education in conservation and give a better future to our underprivileged children and wildlife.

Community

To support our community we educate the underprivileged children to care for their environment so they can benefit from their natural heritage. Our goal is to enable today’s local underprivileged children to eventually be able to secure good employment in nature reserves, thereby improving their future quality of life.

Reviews of Volunteer with children & animals in South Africa

You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
Very enjoyable
It was OK
A bit disappointing really

Reviewed on 24 Apr 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Being able to go into the meercat enclosure and play with them. Getting to accompany the children to Makalali and guide them through the different areas of the game reserve to show them possible jobs they could have. Most terrifying- being chased by a porcupine (she was pretty tame, but I didn't know that at the time).

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Go through the teaching materials so that you are comfortable with the material. There WILL be other volunteers to help teach the stuff, but the more you have to contribute, the better. Everyone has a point of view, and it's good for the children to see yours. Also, if you can find an English-Sepedi dictionary, that would come in VERY handy. Sometimes you get stuck and you realize that the kids have NO IDEA what you are talking about. If you sign up to lead a lesson, ask someone about the props that might be available. You don't have to re-invent the wheel.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


YES!

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


It was AMAZING! Getting close to the animals, getting close to the kids and helping the kids understand their heritage and how awesome it is to live in South Africa!

Reviewed on 24 Sep 2011 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


My whole time at the reserve was so incredible with thrills everyday from hurtling along dirt tracks to see elephants, watching porcupines and honey badgers battle right next to camp to the first time you lead a class by yourself. So many unforgettable memories were forged there including sundowners on leopard rock and my two beautiful warthogs and all the games we played with the kids when they would really let go. One of the most memorable things for me though were the discussions we had with the kids on a thursday morning about the Lion King which we had watched the night before, It was wonderful to see how they could relate it to themselves and the amazing insights we got into their lives with talk of what the stars were, what happens when a delicate balance is disrupted and one person wants too much power (highly pertinent in South Africa) and whether you would rather live with the lions in pride rock or hakuna matata with Timone and Pumbaa.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Go for it!! You will not regret it! You will be situated in Hoedspruit which is a central point for a lot of trips and excursions (including Kruger National Park) and one thing that I would advise is to hold off booking too many trips before you go. You will have weekends free and Ian and Michele (who run the reserve) know so many tour guides and people to book through that it is much easier (and cheaper) to wait until you get there to plan small trips. I would also advise that you bring extra clothes that can be left behind and little gifts for the kids.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


This is without a doubt one of the best organizations around in terms of benefit to the local community and for the local wildlife/environment. The whole programme is aimed at taking the local children from schools to give them some one on one attention, report to the schools on each child, help them to realise their potential and, primarily to teach them about the importance of their environment and the animals in it. They do village clean ups, visit orphanages, all sorts for community benefit. Many of these children when they come to the reserve will have never seen a lion, zebra pr even a warthog, never heard of a game reserve and don't understand the importance of protecting their environment. Their faces light up when they get to stroke a tortoise and feed the mongooses and when they leave they do so with a whole new sense of environmental awareness.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I had the most amazing time at the reserve, I can't describe how incredible it was for me. I learned so much, about the kids, life in South Africa, the animals and myself too. I met so many great people. It really was a life changing experience for me and opened up all sorts of new ideas for my future especially as far as the environmental education goes. It really did feel like we were all a family. I loved everything about my time at the reserve and the opportunity to experience all the different things from teaching, looking after the animals and all the fixing and building. It's easy to preach the values of conservation and biodiversity when we have been educated as such but, even if governments support it, it won't mean anything unless the real people who can make a difference, the local people who live there, understand its value. It is an absolute must for anybody who shares a passion for wildlife, children, the environment, teaching or all of the above!

Reviewed on 06 Dec 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Working with all of the animals and children. meeting wonderful people.
the whole experience was memorable and exciting.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Be polite, learn some French and just have fun.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Yes, definitely, without willing and able volunteers, the project would struggle.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The trip well and truly exceeded my expectations. I would happily recommend it to anyone.

Reviewed on 05 Feb 2010 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


I don't know where to begin to say what was the most memorable part... it was all so amazing. Living in the middle of nowhere, meeting incredible local children, seeing giraffe whilst walking the dogs, hearing monkeys on the roof in the morning, shampooing a blind donkey...the list goes on. Ian and Michele who own/run the project are amazing - meeting people who don't just talk about their dreams but actually follow their dreams is an experience in itself. Living an outdoor life, being active and busy all day, meeting amazing people, and really experiencing Africa. Wonderful.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Take a good head torch - and brush up on your card skills! Evenings with no electricity are a novel experience. Be prepared to do anything (I was looking after mice my first week - wasn't expecting that!) and be open to all experiences. Whatever skills you have will be useful - whether carpentry, building, teaching, looking after animals - there is so much to do there, and the orphanage rely on volunteers - so contact them and let them know your skills - they will be delighted to hear from you! Don't go if you are reliant on hair straighteners, nail varnish and having a shop at the end of the road.... do go if you want to meet wonderful people, work hard, and have alot of laughs.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


Absolutely. Ian and Michele (the owners) are passionate about Africa and have set up the Orphanage to make a difference - and it does. The 8 children a week that they invite to stay go back to their villages with a clear understanding of the impact man has on the environment - and they talk to their families and friends and do what they can to change things which begins the road to a better future. The animals that are cared for at the Orphanage are looked after with great care, and given the best possible environment to heal - and are released as soon as they are well enough to look after themselves again.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


I was only at the orphanage for 2 weeks, though other volunteers that I was there with stayed for up to 6 months. Functionally the bed was comfortable, showers hot, weather brilliant and food great and plentiful. I met wonderful people, discovered I have abilities as a teacher, and loved looking after the animals. I had been to South Africa several times before, mostly for business, but this was my best African experience yet. Fantastic. I am so pleased that I did it. I will definitely
go back.

Reviewed on 18 Sep 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


We met some amazing people at the wildlife orphanage and the memories of them will last a lifetime. Firstly, you will meet some of the local children who are enchanting. You will live, work, eat and play along side them and have a chance to experience each others cultures. Then there is Ian and Michele from whom you will receive a very warm welcome and whom are a never ending source of local knowledge. The other volunteers are great. You will instantly feel part of the family. it is very peaceful, the best way to describe it is like stepping off the world for a week! Finally, we loved getting close up and personal with the animals.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Arrive with an open mind and be prepared to just go with the flow, you will then have a great time. Expect to muck in and enjoy doing something that is not maybe a thing you would do in your "Day Job". The accommodation is basic but clean and offers you everything you need. If you can, hire a car, we did. The roads are easy to navigate and this allows you to get out for a day or two if you want. Michele gave us some great tips on where to visit, we visited Blyde Canyon one day and part of the Kruger Park another.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The wildlife orphanage brings local children in to the camp to stay for one week. The children have lessons during the week which aim to teach them the importance of their environment and preserving the wildlife around them. During the week it is quite amazing to see how their attitudes towards the animals at the camp change. They also learn social skills and gain from learning about the visitors and where they come from. Impact on the environment is kept to a minimum, lighting in the evening is powered by solar cells, trips to town are shared to minimize the fuel used and no food ever goes to waste! Finally, the money you paid directly benefits the children.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


Overall I rate our holiday as excellent. You meet great people, see wonderful scenery and wildlife. And rather than lining the pockets of a giant tour company, the money you pay makes the difference to someone else's life.

Reviewed on 02 Jul 2008 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?


Spending time with the local school children who were with us was absolutely priceless. It made our entire time worthwhile. There was much singing, dancing and joy.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?


Do not expect much contact with the animals as there were very few there! I understand it depends on the needs at the time but I feel we should have been told that there would not be much to do. We would have been positively bored to death had it not been for the children who come from the local village. We were originally told that the children might not be there for the week we were coming because of their final exam schedule. I can't imagine how it would have been without them there. We were very disappointed to have come all that way and discover we were not even needed. I felt the volunteers were important only for the revenue we brought to the project. Most definitely, the premise is good but felt they should have been more upfront to us about the workload. Also, we had virtually no orientation or training about anything. There was just a lot of wondering what we were supposed to be doing. As to the teaching of the children, they handed us a schedule for the week and that was that. Actually, we loved being pretty much unsupervised with the kids because it was fun to do what we wanted with the lessons, etc. We were much more able to reach out to them on a personal level.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?


The children who come to spend the week are most definitely benefited. They had a curriculum in place to keep them on track in their studies as well as teaching them important lessons about their own country's animals and the importance of compassion towards them. The children had a chance to feel special and be spoiled a bit by all of us there. As for the impacts on the environment, we had no electricity but were "enlightened" by the solar lights at night. Hot water was available by fires under the tanks. We were impressed by all of that.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


The kids made it worthwhile and enjoyable otherwise we would have been deeply disappointed with the experience.

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you for your valuable comments about your stay and we are glad to read that your experience with the children was absolutely priceless. It is also true that volunteers mustn't expect too much contact and work with the animals as the main objective of the project is to educate the underprivileged children. We insist on that point and stipulate it in all our correspondences to avoid disappointment. As nature is the master we can't anticipate how many animals and what kind we will have at the time of your stay. In the case of this booking, the volunteers were more interested in the experience with the children than with the animals and that is why we did our best to have them at the time of their stay, knowing we had difficulties to arrange it during school exams. It is obvious that if we wouldn't have had the children at this time, the program would have been very different. We expect volunteers to be self sufficient and autonomous to give more chance to the children to benefit from different way of learning. We have a workbook that we discuss all together when necessary.

We are sorry that they have been disappointed and will take note of their comments to make sure we give the right information to our future volunteers about the work that needs to be done. We also thank Judy, Britt and Linda for their financial contribution as it is true, we need the income of volunteers to run the project and we do not hide it. In the name of the children and animals, we thank all the volunteers that support us.

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