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Michelle Round review 30 Mar 2012
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Going to the orphanage and giving the children the books, crayons and clothes I'd took over, they were so happy. All the locals who work at the centre are very helpful and hard working, the work the centre itself carries out is great for Malawi.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
I moved out of the volunteer house and in to Forresters Lodge, this was because the house was dirty. If you feel you couldn't live in the accommodation provided then book somewhere else (it is also cheaper to do this) then you can volunteer at different places in Malawi, thereís a lot of different charities out there.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Yes as I taught some of the workers at the centre IT & English, the children I visited got lots of books, crayons and clothes, I helped fix the playground at the centre which will benefit the children attending.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Read the operator's response here:
We were very sad to receive this review as we take all feedback very seriously and would not like anyone to have less than a fantastic experience with us. We were aware that Michelle was unhappy at the time and we went to great lengths to try and rectify any issues she had. However after speaking in great depths with Michelle she decided that in general Africa and volunteering just wasnít for her, which is a shame but this experience will not suit everyone.
For the benefit of the reader we would like to address some specific points she has raised:
1) In our opinion and the vast majority of volunteers who stay here, the house is not dirty. Our accommodation is communal, and so it is up to volunteers to work together to keep their belongings tidy. We employ a maid and cleaner (on top of a cook) who all work full time at the volunteer house. However please remember we are also a working wildlife sanctuary with animal care volunteers regularly coming in and out, so it wonít be as spotless as you might expect at a hotel and if volunteers are not on top of it it has the potential to get messy Ėand please donít expect carpets, they certainly donít like the African dust!
2) On alternative accommodation: I'm afraid that volunteers are not permitted to live off site. As we are an emergency rescue facility it is important that volunteers are available day and night and are therefore close by. If volunteers were to live off site then we would also be unable to offer them security or 24hr support, and safety of our volunteers is of paramount importance to us. Nor would you want to live away from the centre, since living with the team is very much so part of the experience and waking up surrounded by wildlife, spending your evenings with the other volunteers making what is often life long friendships and being a 2 minute walk to work are essential to enjoying your time with us.
However we are aware that dorm based sleeping does not suit everyone. Therefore we are in the process of building a private chalet on site for those who are less keen on shared living but would still like to join us, this will be available from June 2012.
We are sad that due to personal reasons Michelle felt that living with the team was not for her but we also like to take this opportunity to point out that volunteers would not find a cheaper deal living away the centre. Michelle left the programme early to stay at Forrester Inn, which is a luxury B&B at $50 a night. We have carefully priced the programme so that volunteers are getting a great value programme that includes all accommodation, meals, airport transfers and work related transport, 24 hour in house support plus a donation to the centre to take part in the programme. So we feel that compared to similar programmes in Africa we are actually excellent value for what we offer.
3) On volunteering elsewhere: Should you decide to travel independently and volunteer with other organisations in Malawi, it is very important that you work through a reputable organisation that has a clear long term development plan for its projects like we do, and these are hard to find in Malawi. We are also the only option in Malawi, and indeed in Africa, that is a 'People and Wildlife' accredited project that works hand in hand with community groups to further conservation so it's a very unique opportunity for volunteers with an unusually large variety of work they can get involved in. For those interested in working with animals please note that we are the countryís only wildlife sanctuary, so there are no other viable alternatives for animal care work elsewhere. It is a big decision choosing where to volunteer, and we encourage volunteers to look around so if you do join us (and we hope you do!) you are satisfied that you have made the right choice.
We are glad that other than the accommodation Michelle had a great time with us, and thank you Michelle for your kinds words in regards to the work that we do, the team work tirelessly under very challenging circumstances to make the project a success so we are pleased that you had enjoyed that aspect of the programme.
Please note that this review does show how volunteering isnít for everyone! If youíre looking for a restful holiday by the pool then this probably isnít for you. However, if youíre enthusiastic, flexible, sociable, have a passion for wildlife and conservation and want to make a difference by rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in, then we would love to hear from you. Also if you would like to speak directly to past volunteers then we are more than happy to pass on their contact details.