Volunteer Spotlight: Harriet

You become attached without even meaning to...

I was offered to spend three weeks at the centre, I thought yes! There my work would be vital and make a difference. It would be hard, but that made it more attractive as a prospect. Personally, I benefited from the experience by the fact that before my knowledge of animal cruelty was non-existent. So I found the volume of knowledge to take in intimidating, but you do! Trivia that makes you a vital member of any quiz team.

Seriously though, if you, like myself, are looking for something to do to fill up time, or learn or grow or something meaningful or even a productive holiday, there are so many ways that an experience like this can be valued. I also met some memorable characters: some mammals, some reptiles.

Enriching the animals at the centre is very important. Put yourself in their position: you are not where you should be, you are not able to socialise or behave naturally, and you rely on others. As a volunteer it is your duty to give the animals something to do. On a memorable occasion, myself and another volunteer gave a macaque a whole coconut; euphoric glee was what we witnessed.

In the end it becomes a game, thinking up new things for them to do, taking into account the time it may take them to become bored of it or finish it, whether it will encourage natural behaviour, etc. That is a main reason I was looking forward to going to the centre; the stimulating challenge of working with your surroundings for theirs. You make enrichments out of coconuts, bamboo, twigs, banana leaves, flowers, fruit anything you can lay your hands on, the emphasis is to be resourceful.

I would go back to the centre, no hesitation in saying that. Why? Why not? You become attached without even meaning to. The place has a palpable aura. It could be argued that there are drawbacks: one week shopping trips, kamikaze mosquitoes, and early mornings.

But, when you are working with exotic animals, on an island in Indonesia, where the sand is black because of the volcanoes, the sea is warm because of the gorgeous sun and the food is amazing (half of my time is spent trying to recreate those dishes); any minor discomforts fade (eventually) to insignificance. I do not want to think of it as a once in a life time experience, because I would like to do it twice maybe even three times.