10 Years of Responsible Volunteering: What it meant to me – Wildlife volunteers look back

Over the last ten years, Globalteer has placed thousands of volunteers with projects dedicated to the care, rehabilitation, and protection of all kinds of animals - from elephants to orangutans and from turtles to dogs. We asked some of our past volunteers to tell us how the experience impacted on them and, with the benefit of hindsight, what made their experience really special.  

Zach Leonardi: Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary
Spending a month in Cambodia with Globalteer was one of the most rewarding, fun, and awakening experiences I've had in my life.

My time in the jungle at the Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary not only gave me the opportunity to spend some quality time with the (adorable) elephants at the project, but opened my eyes to how deeply impactful wildlife conservation in the nation is across sectors - from its relationship to environmental preservation, delicate regional politics, community healthcare and education, tourism, and many others. 

Having graduated from university only days before with a degree in International Relations and Development, I was able to apply years of reading and classroom discussion to the project's initiatives, and truly understand and appreciate the comprehensive, ethical, and sustainable work we were doing.

There was no single better experience for my newly held degree than seeing and contributing, first-hand, to the community development and wildlife conservation taking place at the project. With a feeling of empowerment, knowledge, and confidence in traveling I continued to pursue my passion for sustainable development and moved to South America to work in the non-profit sector.

Read more about the Cambodia Elephant Sanctuary
Read our interview with the Elephant Sanctuary's Director
Apply to volunteer at the Elephant Sanctuary

Julia Quick: Peru Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary

My favourite thing about volunteering at the Peru Wildlife Sanctuary was EVERYTHING. The whole team was wonderful, and I was made to feel right at home from day one. Their passion and dedication for the animals they care for was wonderful to see and be around. Getting to interact with and care for animals was an experience I will treasure forever.

The two baby monkeys I was looking after – Siggy and Ramone – really captured my heart. I formed a wonderful bond with them and shed a tear when I had to leave! They were beautiful animals that I spent some wonderful time with.

Read more about the Peru Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary
Apply to volunteer at the Peru Rainforest Wildlife Sanctuary

Stephen Bajwa: Peru Dog Rescue Project

We had to take care of the dogs every day with the basic feeding and walking requirements and also find time to give the dogs quality attention and affection. On top of that, we had to balance this with the everyday tasks of maintenance and upkeep of the shelter, such as daily cleaning, building fences, and erecting roofs for protection from the sun and the rain. Yes, rain!
It is difficult to think of a favourite thing about the project. I loved and cherished every moment I spent there and actually seeing the appreciation in the dogs eyes with their wagging tails and wide smiles.  For me, that's what makes everything worthwhile. 

My favourite dog was my good friend Paqcho, who had the heart of a lion and the mighty growl of a wolf! And yet he carries himself with all the grace and sensitivity of a wandering butterfly.

I cannot explain why, but there was an instant connection with Paqcho and me. The more time I spent with him, the stronger the bond became. In fact, I dedicate this testimonial to him. I will miss him dearly – my friend and my shadow.

Read more about the Peru Dog Rescue Project
Apply to volunteer at the Peru Dog Rescue Project

Eva Erato-Rudek: Thailand Elephant Sanctuary

My absolute favourite elephant was also the oldest, at 75 and I was fortunate to work with her for four days. She's gentle and just wonderful. She takes her food gently, she walks nicely and seems to enjoy eating the fruit we cut up for her to eat during her baths.

I know that in the time that we have at the sanctuary, we can't really ‘bond’ with the elephants, but I got to spend enough time with her that I felt a closeness to her. I have to say that each elephant that I worked with was just wonderful and they each had their own personality. It is amazing to me that they are so gentle and calm; they are truly beautiful creatures with wonderful souls. 

For me, this was a life-changing trip. I've been struggling with having a purpose in life, and volunteering made me realise that I need to change direction in my life, and work to be the voice for animals. I will definitely visit the sanctuary and volunteer there again. I hope to return in November, and then make it an annual trip!


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