Written by Mariah Wilson, Director of Volunteer
A recent study by WWF reported that the world has lost half its wildlife since 1970 – and humans are to blame. Between habitat degradation, deforestation, and poaching, we’re taking quite a toll on our planet’s biodiversity. But here’s the hopeful part: there are many who want to turn this trend around. Many for whom the call to help cannot go ignored. I feel strongly that my generation has an opportunity and duty to do something. We’re living in the era that saw environmental awareness become the norm, not the exception.
After stumbling across a sea turtle conservation program while on a trip in Costa Rica in 2007, I was inspired to embark on my own environmental adventure. A few years later, I set off on a volunteering voyage to two conservation programs on opposite sides of the world. One program in Africa focused on endangered and threatened animals, the other on coral reefs and oceans in the South Pacific. Not knowing what I might find, I decided to bring a small camera along and make a volunteering video diary of my experiences in order to inspire others to make their own cross-continental conservation excursions. Volunteer is the result of that journey – I hope you find it informative, inspiring, and that it makes you giggle a bit along the way. I mean, if chimpanzee farts can’t make you laugh, what can, really?
For those interested in volunteering themselves, here’s some more info on the places I featured in the film. Happy Travels!
Uganda Wildlife Education Center: Entebbe, Uganda
Volunteers can stay onsite in ‘bandas’, small huts that are on UWEC’s property. The bandas are delightful and very clean, but are not completely sealed from the outside… so for those scared of roaches (like myself!) be forewarned that you may have some of these insects as roommates. Program length ranges from days to months, and volunteers rotate between animal groups (birds, reptiles, carnivores, primates, and hoofstocks). Lots of exciting hands-on experience with wild animals. For more information email: email@example.com
Fiji Dive Conservation Training: Vanua Levu, Fiji
Volunteers spend part of the time in the town of Savusavu, and part of the time in the small traditional village Waivunia. This all takes place on Vanua Levu – one of Fiji’s less touristy islands. You’ll be trained on how to perform Reef Check surveys with the wonderful and engaging Johnny Singh, and you’ll get your first (or next) level of dive certification too. Enjoy the local brew, Fiji bitter, and the kava of course! For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Costa Rica Sea Turtle Program
Volunteers stay in the ranger station at Cahuita Beach, 2 km from the nearest paved road. It’s a remote and wonderful place, and volunteers work on beach trekking to look for nesting turtles, and monitoring the hatchery…which is quite exciting when a nest hatches. So many baby turtles!
Also highly recommended:
Nepal Green Society
Volunteers stay at Hotel Parkside, an eco-lodge in the Terai region of Nepal, near Chitwan National Park (known for its rhinos, leopards, and elephants). There are opportunities to participate in a number of environmental awareness programs in the area, and to help with making paper products from elephant dung (not as gross as you’d think! Trust me!).