Thursday, October 8, 2015

1.3 million speak up for Cecil

“It’s been three months since Cecil the Lion was killed by an American dentist in Zimbabwe, and I am one of 1,300,000 people around the world want to see #JusticeForCecil. Sign the petition to make sure U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service​ knows that we will continue to fight to make sure wildlife is protected:

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dare to be Fabulous!

I was recently asked by the very beautiful and talented fellow animal lover Johanna McCloy to submit an article as their October feature for Dare to be Fabulous. 
Hmmm, what is this Dare to be Fabulous website I thought. So I visited 'DTBF' and began to read stories by such women as Gloria Steinem, the hilarious Jenna Jolovitz and her 'hair-boiled egg' breasts, the brave Rebecca Chamaa, the honest mom, Molly Caro May, the independent Sohini Chakraborty and the adventurous photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. Hours passed as I was engulfed in laughter, tears but mostly inspiration within the beautiful stories Johanna has passionately collected.

I certainly didn't believe that little ol' me could mingle with such a group of outstanding women but Johanna encouraged me to write a story from the heart, so I did. 
And if you'd like to read it, you can read it right here. I encourage anyone who's looking for a dose of inspiration to check in at Dare to Be Fabulous, you won't be disappointed!

From the DTBF website:

Every woman’s personality and circumstances are unique, but all women share in the experience of hearing that inner voice and daring themselves on a daily basis, whether at work, at home, or at play. Daring to be fabulous could be daring to laugh, speak up, dance, engage, or in some cases, walk away. Just getting out bed in the morning could be a DTBF experience!
Story contributors range from groundbreaking and famous women, to one woman who has chosen to remain in splendid anonymity. They’re all in it together. Peruse featured stories and check out the roster of amazing contributors thus far. Have you heard the adage, “compare and despair”? Dare to be Fabulous proposes this antidote: “relate and celebrate! The personal is universal, and the universal personal. Every affirming action reverberates into the world and bolsters others in its wake.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Elephants Never Forget

Photo from the Anthony family

On the afternoon of March 7, 2012 a heavy procession made a slow and deliberate 12 hour journey to the home of beloved conservationist and author, Lawrence Anthony in Johannesburg, South Africa who had just passed away. Just.

When they arrived they did not eat nor drink. They encircled his home and stayed for two days mourning the passing of their friend and savior.  They were two herds of wild elephants. Matriarch, bulls and babies. They had come to pay their respects to the man that had saved their lives. Two immediate questions came to the surface: first, how did they know he had just passed? And second, they had not been to his home for at least 18 months, how could they remember?

Lawrence Anthony is well known for his writings and work as a conservationist, he was affectionately known as the Elephant Whisperer. He saved the elephants from the Baghdad zoo during the Iraqi crisis. He saved 'troublesome' elephants from reserves in South Africa who were destined to be shot - elephants who hated humans after being abused and seeing their family members poached.

The relationship with these elephants wasn't always a loving one, Anthony writes in The Elephant Whisperer how on their first night at his reserve he pleads with the matriarch of the herd, Nana, not to try and escape as they will be shot 'out there'. But Nana, a known escape artist fell a tree onto the electrical wire and together with another elephant crushed the generator of the electrical fence, freeing her and her herd. A chase ensued with Lawrence and his staff trying to find and save the elephants before the locals who now saw them as fair game, shot them.
Lucky for the elephants, Anthony found them first.

I spent a brief time volunteering with elephants in Africa, in particular one named Kittibon whose name means I have seen. She had also witnessed her herd being poached, but had been rescued and was now on this small reserve. Every morning Kittibon would, through the electrical fence, whip my face with a stick, throw food at my face - or after I had gotten smart and put a bandana over my face to outsmart the elephant, she doused me with a powerful trunkful of water. Yep, the ellie won. But over time, I developed a deep connection with her, she was one of my greatest teachers. I loved that elephant and when she passed away a few years later from a prolapsed uterus after giving birth I truly mourned her passing.

Lawrence Anthony also talks about this connection with the matriarch elephant, Nana during a near confrontation in his magnificent book, The Elephant Whisperer:

“She took another step forward. I could see her tense up again, preparing to snap the electric wire and be out, the rest of the herd smashing after her in a flash.
“I was in their path, and would only have seconds to scramble out of their way and climb the nearest tree. I wondered if I would be fast enough to avoid being trampled. Possibly not.
“Then something happened between Nana and me, some tiny spark of recognition, flaring for the briefest of moments. Then it was gone. Nana turned and melted into the bush. The rest of the herd followed. I couldn’t explain what had happened between us, but it gave me the
first glimmer of hope since the elephants had first thundered into my life.”

So how did the elephants know? I believe they knew from the deep connection we all have. The deep connection that if we are willing to give up resentment, fear, darkness and all the other trivial stuff that muddles our vision, allows the divine that is in every living thing to flow so miracles are not only possible but plausible.

“We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Friday, September 18, 2015

Monday, August 31, 2015

Godspeed Dr. Dyer

"Look for the blessing in all situations." - Dr. Wayne Dyer

There are heavy hearts around the world today as we learn that Dr. Dyer passed over to the other side this weekend. 
Dr. Dyer was a mentor to millions. He was a man, or as Wayne would say, a spirit who was not afraid to break out of the mould. He encouraged the rest of us to not die with our music still inside of us either.

I discovered Dr. Dyer late one sleepless night on a 2004 PBS special, The Power of Intention. It was just weeks after my father had passed and I was struggling with loss. 
Dr. Dyer's message came through loud and clear, and it profoundly helped me to heal and understand. The message was: we are all spirits having a human experience, not humans having a spiritual experience. He said life is just a pause in between the parenthesis, our spirits never die. That message was the lighthouse that guided me through the fog.

I recently learned that Dr. Dyer wrote, The Power of Intention, while he was battling a deep depression after him and his wife of 20 years separated. Writing the book pulled him out of the depression and it would go on to help millions who were struggling with their own losses. Incredible.

I've studied every book written by Dr. Dyer, watched every PBS special and had the opportunity to see him speak live at the Queen Elizabeth theatre in Vancouver. His loving presence filled the room and beyond. He said when he sat down to write he would just let the Divine write through him. This evident by his manuscripts.

Dr. Dyer wrote extensively on the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, a prayer that carries us through our darkest times. The last line of the prayer reads: It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Dr. Dyer has returned to eternal life.

I love you Dr. Dyer, thank you for stepping out of the mould, thank you for sharing your gifts.

The Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, 
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 

to be understood as to understand; 
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; 
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; 
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What Cecil the Lion did for Humanity

I, like millions of others am deeply saddened and angered by the execution of Cecil the lion. I volunteered in South Africa on a big five game reserve and spent time with lions daily. They are more majestic and regal in person than one could imagine. The thought of intentionally killing one of these creatures is beyond repugnant. Cecil's story has had some positive outcomes, however. It has brought a newfound awareness of trophy hunting, it has united a global community and opened the door to discussions of how to better protect lions in the future.

Cecil may be gone but his death is not in vain. How many people would have signed a petition to ban trophy hunting of lions two weeks ago without Cecil's story going global? Cecil's death implored hundreds of thousands of people to do just that. By week's end that number will easily climb to over a million.

Cecil's death has brought together people from around the world, from nearly every culture, religion and country to band together. Pretty powerful that one lion can untie us all in love.  Thank you Cecil for showing us how alike we all are and the unlimited power of human compassion. Cecil's story even made hilarious comedian, Jimmy Kimmel shed a tear on live TV.

This one act by one man and one hunting organization in a tiny pocket of the world has brought enormous awareness to the plight of lions. Cecil's death will inevitably save many other lions from meeting the same fate. It has to. It will. The majority has spoken. Innovative ideas are circulating as to how we can better protect lions. 

Cecil's story will have a lasting impact. It has shown us, the super predators of this fragile planet how me may be better in protecting those that need protecting. May justice run it's course and may this also offer us the opportunity for radical forgiveness.

Please join nearly 378,000 others in signing a petition for Justice for Cecil and support Lion Research here

Friday, July 24, 2015

Finding My Balls

Pam Grout has written two powerful books, E-Squared and E-Cubed, of practical energy experiments that prove the 'Universe', 'God', or as she calls it, the 'Infinite Field of Potentiality or FP' exists. She says that not only does it exist, but it's on our side and loves us unconditionally.
I've read her books, done the experiments and they absolutely worked for me. But that was no surprise as I had tangoed with the Universe before. It all began with one tiny ball...

It was 2010, I had recently returned from volunteering in South Africa and was determined to write a book. This had been a goal I had long ago shelved. I announced my goal to those around me only to find that my enthusiasm was met with mostly skepticism. I began to write despite the critics (and there will always be critics).

It didn't take long before my own self doubt and fear joined the other voices, only mine were screaming things like, 'Why are you wasting your time?' and 'You can't write, you suck watermelons!' The doubt was paralyzing and soon I gave up my goal of writing.

A few days later I was hiking in a coastal rainforest close to my house. It was pouring rain and a grey mist blanketed the forest making it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. Not surprisingly, my canine companions and me were the only ones on the trails. The outside world reflected exactly how I felt on the inside - cold, grey, alone and utterly defeated.
The more I hiked the angrier I became. I didn't want to give up writing but I needed a sign, you know, a sign.
So I asked, 'If I'm on the right path, if I should keep writing then damnit show me a sign.' Yes, I was really that rude and demanding, after all I never expected someone or something to answer me.
A few minutes later on a muddy section of trail I heard, well it was more like felt, a voice. And no, I hadn't been eating any mushrooms along the way...
It was this calm, jovial being that said 'look over there'.
Again, not really believing I was 'hearing' this I amused myself by stopping and looking where I felt I should. There was nothing there. The 'voice' said look behind that log and under the leaf. Again, purely for amusement I stepped behind the log and kicked up the leaves. And there, in the black mud was a tiny, bright green ball. There was nothing else around - just mud and leaves. But this little ball was like a beacon of faith or coincidence, I wasn't really sure but at the time it was exactly what I needed to keep writing. 

But self-doubt was relentless and every now and then when the writing got tough I would want to pack it in. So I would ask the almighty Universe for a sign and within a day or two - but usually within a few hours, I would find another one of these balls - on the sidewalk, on the step of the train as I was getting on, on my seat at a restaurant! I just had to ask. It became an inside joke between us - you know, the Universe and me. I would even request the color of the ball I wanted to receive: pink, orange, yellow, black - and he always delivered. 

On one particularly difficult day I returned to the same rain forest and asked the Universe for a baby blue ball. I was hoping not to find one because on this day I was full of doubt about my writing goals and not finding a ball would let me off the hook and justify giving up on this 'ridiculous' goal once and for all (as my self doubt called it).
There was nothing on the trails. I was kicking up leaves and searching under logs like a mad man. Nothing. I was so pissed at the Universe. My self-doubt was smirking ear to ear. I determined that the little balls had been nothing but a coincidence and the Universe was indeed a fake.
I dragged my feet all the way back to my car. I opened the back for my dogs to jump in and when I closed the door something caught my eye. I couldn't freakin' believe it. I began hysterically laughing in the middle of the parking lot. There, stuck under the wheel of my car was a baby blue tennis ball. Not a tiny ball like all the others but a great big tennis ball. The Universe has a grand sense of humor. 

The little balls followed me to Los Angeles. I was chasing my dream - to find a literary agent and get published and take in some much needed sun. I sublet a dusty old walk up off Sunset Boulevard. The ad didn't mention roommates but I had plenty of them - cockroaches, ew!
The first night there it poured with rain. I walked to the 7-11 down the street and bought a cup of noodles and bag of Doritos for dinner. I didn't know anyone in this town. Feeling alone and a little naive I asked for a sign that I was in the right place.
The next day while walking across the dusty gravel parking lot to the dumpster something caught my eye - and then something else - and something else: dozens of tiny gold and silver balls. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I even began to regard my roommates differently after that. 

A few weeks later I signed a contract with an amazing literary agent. A couple of months after that a publisher expressed interest in my book. Nine months later I signed my first publishing contract with that initial publisher who turned out to be the perfect fit, she is awesome! All this was possible because I found my balls, so to speak.
Was it all just a coincidence? Maybe. But either way those tiny balls gave me courage to keep going.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Regret

My friend David Knapp-Fisher recently gave this TED-X talk in Vancouver. 
He says that all of us must suffer either the pain of discipline, which is tiny, or the pain of regret, which is massive. True words indeed. 
This is such an inspiring presentation, his story will get anyone motivated to 'suffer the pain of discipline'.
Thank you David for this powerful message.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Lifelong Dream Realized: Volunteering in South Africa

It started with a fascination for what lie between the pages of National Geographic magazine from a pre-school age.  Fire-blazon sunsets and equally impressive sunrises, pulse-racing photos of prehistoric mammals, graphic predator kill scenes and tribal warriors with painted masks and terrifying spears. 
These were the images that lay the foundation for dreams I would inevitably chase in adulthood.
The dream wasn't one I easily captured; it would take a major career change and life altering circumstances to make the decision that volunteering was perhaps an important life choice, just as, if not more important than any other. It was necessary.

I found a reputable company and signed up for a Big Five volunteer experience in South Africa, dang, just writing that still gives me chills.
 I left behind all the creature comforts of home (that I would soon learn were unimportant) and traded in my private office for a pair of butter-yellow leather, work gloves and a canvas tent. Best decision ever. 
I was lulled to sleep every night by the roar of lions and awoken at dawn by the screech of the Hadeeda bird overhead. My neighbors were elephants, cheetah, rhinoceros, and wildebeest - just to name a few. Every day I had a purpose to fulfill, my work had meaning - meaning that went beyond the bottom line. I wasn't being paid yet I had never felt wealthier.

Meals were simple yet nourishing, the rangers gracious and eager to share knowledge and ensure I had a life enriching experience. It wasn't long before I realized I was no longer living life vicariously through the pages of National Geographic magazine, I was writing the words myself, from my daily adventures. A lifetime of nearly forgotten dreams was now a reality and I was the one behind the camera lens, and the one holding the pen.

"Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you." - Luke 6:38

Perhaps the greatest gift of all that came from volunteering was learning the magic of giving itself. Every day I gave sweat, tears and everything I had of myself - yet the more I gave, the more I received. I tried desperately to even out the balance sheet but I couldn't, I felt indebted for all I was receiving. I received clarity, knowledge, a deep and profound sense of meaning, important life lessons, and answers to questions that before seemed unanswerable.

Maybe it's the idea of awakening to the sound of elephant trumpets or falling asleep to the roar of lions that is calling you to South Africa. Or perhaps it's the genuine smile of a disadvantaged child when you share your compassion and knowledge that has you researching volunteer opportunities. Whatever your insatiable passion is: teaching, healthcare, conservation or community service, you'll find a way to quench it in South Africa.
President Nelson Mandela coined this great country as the 'Rainbow Nation' because it's diverse and colorful in every way. From white sand beaches with awesome surf to grass plains and tabletop mountains, South Africa has something for everyone. The volunteer organizations allow and even encourage volunteers to take free time to experience it all.
Embrace the power of giving and live your very own South African volunteering adventure of a lifetime with one of these highly recommended and reputable organizations.
This article first appeared on the website Volunteer Forever, an organization that helps volunteers with the infrastructure to raise funds to volunteer overseas. 

Program Name: A Broader View
★★★★★ Volunteer Review by JenniferCR
This was the best experience of my life. The ABV team was really helpful both in the USA and in-country. I was very prepared for the trip. It was really easy to get settled and used to the new surroundings. There was never a time that I felt uncomfortable or unclear on travel instructions or anything. Definitely going to go back some day!

Types of programs offered:
A broader view offers programs in countries around the world. In South Africa programs are offered in Port Elizabeth on the world famous Garden Route. Programs offered include:
·      Orphanage (Creche) Program
o   Volunteers add support to the local staff with individual attention to the kids, supervise playtime, support lunch services, reinforce English speaking with lessons and reading/games and help with homework.
o   Afternoon homework guidance and after school project support.
o   Most facilities operate day care, drop-in and food centers for (OVC), nutrition unit, community gardens and clothing warehouse project.  Volunteers need to be pro-active, and enthusiastic, and show flexibility towards tasks and activities.
·      Community and Development Programs: flexible and diverse programs design to enhance the community and children's needs and volunteer's personal interest. Examples include:
o   Dance lessons
o   Homework assistance
o   Cooking meals
o   School projects
o   Classroom assistants
o   Sports activities
o   Computer/Internet teaching

Where they work:
Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Other countries include; Belize, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, Nepal, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia.

How long: A Broader View offers 1 to 4 week programs always starting on a Monday. Note that schools in SA are closed for three weeks in June/July and one week in early October.

Who can join: 18+ for solo travellers, 12-17 for travellers accompanied by an adult.

Know before you go:
A tourist visa is required to travel to South Africa. Hep A and Typhoid vaccines are also required.
A representative will meet you at Port Elizabeth airport. Workdays are Monday - Friday, 8am - 3pm with a lunch break. Weekends are free for sight seeing, etc.
ABV arranges for a Host Family to provide living accommodations and meals during the Project Period. In terms of accommodations and meals, ABV guarantees safe, clean accommodations based on local standards (not always US standards).
A Broader View Volunteers is a 501(c)(3) based non-profit organization based in Pennsylvania. Since A Broader View Volunteers is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, US tax payers' program fees and related travel expenses are tax deductible.

Program Name: Projects Abroad
★★★★★ Volunteer Review by Nicole Biz
I had a wonderful time volunteering in South Africa with Projects Abroad, and I actually plan to go back to South African next year. I took a career break to work on a business project in a Cape Town township to help an educare centre (an early childhood school) with its business planning. The opportunity was simply amazing! We worked during the day from Monday to Friday and had ample opportunities to travel and site-see around town and the country.

Types of programs offered:
Projects Abroad has a variety of volunteer projects in Cape Town, South Africa. Programs offered include:
·      Conservation and Environment
o   Live and work in a game reserve helping to conserve African animals and plant life.
·      Child Care
o   work with children aged 3 - 6 in orphanages.
·      Teaching
o   Volunteer as a teaching assistant or teach IT and literacy in the Cape Flats area.
·      Medicine and Healthcare
o   Volunteer at a health clinic and help vulnerable children affected by HIV/AIDS.
·      Law and Human Rights
o   A typical day includes meeting with clients, research and reviewing cases.
·      Teach physical education at Cape Town schools
·      Surfing
o   Help teach surfing, swimming and general life skills to at-risk children.
·      Journalism
o   Work alongside journalists in Cape town in every phase of magazine production from concept to finished product.
·      Building
o   Help construct better quality homes and classrooms.
·      International Development
o   Work alongside NGOs in Cape Town tackling the country's big issues: unemployment, crime, domestic abuse and alcoholism.
·      Business Placements across a number of industries.
·      Veterinary Medicine and Animal Care
·      Creative and Performing Arts Teaching Opportunities
·      Community Township Project
o   Help build a community center in Lavender Hill.
·      High School programs for teens wishing to volunteer in South Africa
o   Care and Community
o   Conservation and Environment
o   Building Projects
o   Law and Human Rights
·      Volunteer projects for individuals aged 50+
·      Volunteer projects for Professionals

Where they work:
Cape Town, South Africa. Other countries include; Argentina, Bolivia, Botswana, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Romania/Moldova, Samoa, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Vietnam.

How long:
Most projects are four weeks in length. Projects run year round (check local holidays) and volunteers can generally start any day of the week.

Who can join:
Volunteers aged 16 years or older for high school programs, 18 years or older for individual programs.

Know before you go:
A tourist visa is required to travel to South Africa. Some vaccines may be required - check with your doctor.
Workdays are generally Monday - Friday, weekends are free for sight seeing, etc.
Projects Abroad arranges for a local Host Family to provide living accommodations and meals during the Project Period (included in program cost). Program fees also include medical insurance.

Program Name: VESA
★★★★★ Volunteer Review by James McDowell
I went on the first Africa Unearthed program ever held just a few days after I graduated from university. My experiences as a volunteer and as a tour leader of the African program really opened my eyes and gave me a much better perspective of the world. I really feel that I’ve made an impact in KZN (South Africa)

Types of programs offered:
The VESA South Africa program operates in St. Lucia and Swaziland. The St Lucia area is a world heritage status wetland region surrounded by local communities. The multi-faceted volunteer programs include:

·      Conservation and Environment
o   Working in the wetlands region; the capture and release of crocodiles, the counting of crocodile eggs as well as feeding and cleaning the enclosures of the smaller crocs and alligators.
o   Cheetahs and Leopards rehabilitation, breeding and release program; preparing the food, feeding the cats and constructing new enclosures for the breeding pairs.
·      Orphanage volunteer
o   Teaching English, basic sanitation, hygiene and nutrition.
o   Renovate and revitalize facilities.
·      Farming and Entrepreneurship
o   Build and install sustainable farming units for families and single mothers to manage as a microbusiness.

Where they work:
St. Lucia, South Africa and Swaziland. Other regions include; South America, Fiji, South East Asia.

How long:
Two weeks.

Who can join:
Volunteers aged 18 years or older.

Know before you go:
A tourist visa is required to travel to South Africa. Some vaccines may be required - check with your doctor.
Workdays are generally Monday - Friday, 8am - 4pm. All meals are included except on the final day transfer to Johannesburg.  Travel medical insurance is required and the responsibility of participant. Accommodation is included in a secure dorm-style setting separated male/female, internet is available in lobby. Arrive to Durban airport and be met by VESA staff, departure from Johannesburg airport. All in-country transportation is provided. All activities are included except optional extras. Activities include sightseeing, river tour, and village tours.

★★★★★ Volunteer Review by Tanya
I had a wonderfully positive experience with ISV, right from the start by keeping me up to date on deadlines, providing me with resources and ideas for fundraising and always being accessible through email on telephone. Once I went to Africa, it continued to be a positive, educational, safe and enjoyable experience. Ever since I have been back I have been thinking of ways to get back there and participate in a wonderful adventure with this organization again and its a good thing they have resources to help me earn another trip because I will put in the effort for such a great cause and experience.

Types of programs offered:
ISV offers volunteer/adventure programs in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. ISV is unique in that they offer two-week volunteer programs with the option of adding on a two-week adventure tour. Types of volunteer programs offered:

·      Environmental Management
o   Employ environmental management techniques to protect the country's natural and vulnerable areas.
·      Conservation
o   Wildlife care and rehabilitation programs
o   Education
·      Children's programs
o   Assisting children in need
·      Community Development

Where they work:
South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique. Other countries include; Australia, Botswana, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Mozambique, New Zealand, South Africa, Swaziland, Thailand, Vietnam, Zambia.

How long:
Two-week volunteer project with the option of adding a two-week adventure tour.

Who can join:
Volunteers aged 18 years or older, however there is also a special program for volunteers aged 15 - 18.

Know before you go:
A tourist visa is required to travel to South Africa. Some vaccines may be required - check with your doctor. Travel and medical insurance is required and the responsibility of participant. Accommodation is included, all meals are included during the volunteer program and about half the meals are included during the optional adventure program.
ISV has been in business since 2002 and has had more than 30,000 volunteers on hundreds of projects. More than 310 universities grant academic credit for participation in ISV programs, check with your local university. You will be travelling with a group of 25-50 other volunteers.

 Program Name: African Impact
★★★★★ Volunteer Review by bgdsend
I headed out to South Africa as a Cape Town Teaching volunteer. It really was amazing. The sun, the sea, the communities and projects, the backdrop, Cape Town is an incredible place. The first day got me so excited for the trip a comprehensive tour of the areas I'd be working in. I made friend with people of all ages from all over the world, and because of the friendly atmosphere created by the project managers, everyone got on well and it was a good laugh too. I ended up staying for 3 months - all the people I met there that booked for 2,3 or 4 weeks were gutted they didn't book for longer. You get looked after so well at the house too - laundry, meals, accommodation, all top-notch. Met some amazing people and loved working at the schools and community projects. Booking the trip was maybe the best decision I've ever made. DO. IT.

Types of programs offered:
African Impact offers a range of volunteer programs in South Africa. Projects include:
·      Conservation Projects
o   Wildlife refuges
o   Marine conservation
o   Lion rehabilitation
o   Photography
o   Veterinary and wildlife research
·      Community Volunteering
o   Building and development
o   Healthcare and medical
o   HIV/Aids support
o   Sports and coaching
o   Teaching and education
o   Orphanage and vulnerable children
·      Internships

Where they work:
South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi, Madagascar, Uganda, Seychelles.

How long:
Most programs run for 2 - 12 weeks. Custom options are also available.

Who can join:
Volunteers aged 18+.

Know before you go:
A traveller's visa is required for South Africa. Some vaccinations also may be required, check with your doctor.  Fees include all meals during project work times (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and accommodation as well as transfer to/from project site. Volunteer accommodation usually takes the form of a free-standing house, chalet, or in some cases, a backpackers lodge. Volunteers usually stay in rooms with 2-6 beds (bunks) with clean duvets and bedding. There are separate rooms for males and females. The volunteer accommodation often has access to a swimming pool, lounge and entertainment area as well as a resource room where they can plan for the next day’s projects or learn about other African Impact projects and initiatives. Evenings and weekends are free time for local excursions. Excursions are an additional cost. Travel medical insurance is required for all volunteers.
Volunteers who successfully fundraised via the Volunteer Forever website for African Impact projects:
Lori Heisler, USA. Raised $5555 to volunteer on a Community Development Project in Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa.
Serena Roffo, USA. Raised $5515 to teach orphaned children in Zimbabwe.
Brooke, USA. Raised $2065 to volunteer at a children's program in Kenya.

Program Name: Wildlife ACT
★★★★★ Volunteer Review by Dominique
I would like to thank all the Wildlife ACT team for the amazing time I had in Africa.
I can truly say that the experience changed my life forever. Before the trip I had no idea what I wanted to do and didn’t know what good could come from my university course, which is Advertising. And now, Wildlife ACT inspired me to used it for a good cause. I have been trying to get involved in Brazilian conservation organizations and have been more interested in my country’s wildlife which is huge!
At both Tembe Elephant Park and Hluhluwe I met the most amazing people and I know I made friends for life. The work you guys are doing is incredible and I would like to help in anyway I could. Please let me know if you guys ever need anything! I’m planning on coming back in July of next year. I cannot wait.

Types of programs offered:
Conservation projects on game reserves. Specific projects include:
·      Endangered Species Conservation.
o   Tracking and monitoring animals such as Cheetah, African Wild Dog, Rhino, Lion, Elephant and Leopard.
·      Leopard Conservation Census
o   Wildlife ACT will conduct a number of exciting, short-term Leopard Population Surveys using remote camera trapping survey methods. The survey is the largest on leopards of its kind in the world.
·      Filmmaking and photography specialist volunteer programs

Where they work:
Zululand, South Africa.

How long:
Most programs are 2 - 16 weeks in length. Extended stay options available.

Who can join:
Volunteers 18+ years of age.

Know before you go:
Vaccinations may be required, check with your doctor. Travel medical insurance is required and the responsibility of the volunteer. Participants must be in reasonable physical condition. Housing is provided in a ranger's station with bathroom and kitchen facilities. Meals are included but prepared by the volunteers. A maximum of five volunteers are accepted at a time. Wildlife ACT is supported by, and works with high profile conservation organizations including WWF, Endangered Wildlife Trust and Panthera.

★★★★1/2 Volunteer Review by Amy Smith
This really was a trip of a life time. My 6 week stay in South Africa was the first time I had done anything like this and certainly the first time I had been abroad on my own. I had a great time and experienced so much whilst out in the bush. The sights and sounds of the Africa bush are something you can never forget, nearly 3 years on and the memories are so vivid its like i was there last week. The staff both in the UK and in the field were excellent- very supportive, enthusiastic and clearly loved their jobs. In fact I have never met such passionate people and they really made me determined to finish my degree and follow in their footsteps. Overall it was an amazing trip, worth every penny, and I would 100% do it all over again!

Types of programs offered:
·      Wildlife conservation
·      Working with children
·      Teaching sports and surfing
·      Marine Conservation
·      Healthcare
·      Construction

Where they work:
South Africa. Other countries include: Australia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Greece, India, Kenya, Laos, Mexico, Nepal, Seychelles, Thailand, United States.

How long:
Most programs are 2 - 24 weeks in length.

Who can join:
Volunteers 18+ years of age if travelling without a parent/guardian. Family and student programs are also available.

Know before you go:
Vaccinations may be required, check with your doctor. Comprehensive medical insurance is required and the responsibility of the volunteer. Participants must be in reasonable physical condition. Meals and accommodation are provided.  Accommodation is basic and shared with other volunteers. Meals are mainly vegetarian using locally sourced ingredients. A meet and greet is provided at the airport for most programs.  Volunteers will have free time to explore the area and activities.

★★★★★ Volunteer Review by Sarah Rayner
How to begin! Finding IVHQ was the best thing I've ever discovered. They're overall a great organization to deal with, have loads of programs, even more countries to choose from and offer affordable prices compared to other organization. A killer trio if you ask me. After the initial stress of applying to a certain program IVHQ supports and follows you trough your application process. All the pre departure information was very helpful and prepared you in some what of way for your arrival (they can't prepare you for everything!). And then its take off time!! As you arrive IVHQ and the local organization you're working with are with you the whole way. From picking you up from the airport, driving you to the local volunteer house, undergoing the orientation day and to all the other details they're there the whole way. My program was amazing and the people I met were even greater. This trip was absolutely the best decision and the best trip I've ever done in my life! The experience and the stories you bring back home will be with you for the rest of your life. Living with local families is the way to become part of the community and to adopt the local culture. I would recommend this organization to everyone that wants to travel a little differently while making a sustainable change. And one thing is for sure this is not my last trip with IVHQ! Love IVHQ. So what are you waiting for....check IVHQ now!

Types of programs offered:
·      Teaching programs at public schools
o   Tutor struggling students and work alongside local teachers or other volunteers.
o   Subjects include English, Mathematics, Life Skills, Social Studies, Art and Physical studies however there is a heavy emphasis on English.
o   Volunteers may also be asked to help organize other activities for the students, including sports.
o   Volunteers do not need to be qualified or experienced teachers.
·      Surf Outreach
o   Facilitate local children (9-15 years old) in learning how to surf, after school, while teaching them valuable life skills.
o   Planning activities and teaching the children how to surf or play beach games, cleaning wetsuits, cleaning the Surf Development Center, preparing sandwiches for the students.
o   Three days per week surfing and one day per week teaching beach games and one day per week in a local school to see how the students are performing in an academic setting, as surfing outside of school hours is treated as a privilege.
o   Volunteers have the opportunity to learn how to surf with an instructor and have access to the surf equipment in the morning, while the students are at school.
o   Volunteers do not need to know how to surf.
·      Sport Development
o   Work with children from Grade 1 to Grade 7 and are responsible for the planning and delivery of creative and innovative Physical Education lessons which link directly to the Learning Outcomes and Curriculum set out by the Western Cape Education Department.
·      Childcare
o   Volunteers are placed in day care centers attended by children from poor backgrounds and broken homes.
o   In addition to teaching and caring for these children, volunteers on this project are also involved in organizing games and activities, and helping with general duties of the center, including cooking and feeding the children.
·      Computer Training
o   Teach basic computer skills, providing local children with access to the Internet and the opportunity to up-skill and improve their future employment prospects.

Where they work:
Capricorn/Vrygrond community in Muizenberg (about 30 minutes from central Cape Town), South Africa. Other countries include: Argentina, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, Philippines, Romania/Moldova, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe

How long:
Most programs are 1 - 24 weeks in length.

Who can join:
Volunteers must be 18 years or older at the beginning of the volunteer program and must provide a criminal background check to IVHQ partner staff on arrival in South Africa. Surf Outreach project volunteers must be competent swimmers. Computer Teaching project volunteers must be computer literate.

Know before you go:
Vaccinations may be required, check with your doctor. Travel medical insurance is required and the responsibility of the volunteer. Participants must be in reasonable physical condition. Meals and accommodation are provided. Accommodations are dorm style in volunteer houses. Weekends are free for sightseeing and activities. Long weekends/extra days can also be taken to explore.