Working for an NGO in South Africa
My experience as a long-term Volunteer at DAKTARI
« I will come back, Africa!! Be sure that, one day, I will travel again within all your beauties» was my last thought when I flew back to France, leaving behind me South Africa. Leaving behind?? Actually not really, I think South Africa will be always in my heart, from all I learnt, saw, discovered, experimented… By all the amazing people I met, children, volunteers, locals, Michele, Ian… And by all these crazy funny animals I had the chance to work with or contemplate during my trip.
Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. Anne-Sophie, 24, French, Marketing Manager at DAKTARI from April 2014 to March 2015, now flying towards new adventures!
How did I choose my volunteer experience?
I searched for months and months for a humanitarian mission or a volunteering experience. I wanted to travel after my studies, being involved in an environmental project where I could help the less fortunate than myself. But doing what exactly? Protecting the wildlife? Supporting the children? And where? In South America, Africa? So many questions and projects all over the world that it was difficult to choose one.
And one day, as if the entire universe just converged to guide me and light my path, the perfect opportunity just came to me. I found DAKTARI, an organization that works with underprivileged children AND injured animal, in the middle of the South African Bush, next to the Kruger Park! PERFECT!! I sent an email to Michele to come for 1 month. Her reply: “Dear Anne-Sophie, (…) I saw you just completed your study in Marketing (…), I am currently looking for a Marketing Manager here at DAKTARI, for 1 year (…), If you are interested send me your CV (…)”
From that moment to today, everything went very quickly and my life took a new turn.
3 flights. 20 hours of travel. 1 foot on the African Continent and my heart had found what it was looking for… DAKTARI. The bush. A new exciting home. New friends. A new team work. And I was ready for the most wonderful job ever!! The children’s smiles. The staff’s dance. The birds’ songs. The animals’ foolishness. The adventurous volunteers. Ian’s jokes and his crazy dirty stories. Michele, her dogs and her contagious funny attitude…
I will never forget all these beautiful adventures and meetings. Here is a sample of what is in my head when I think about DAKTARI: Face to face with Cachou (the Dassie) on my toilet while he was having a poo, a good morning!! Live with 6 little bush babies in my room. Work with a foolish squirrel which bites all the papers and a warthog who breaks everything. Released a pangolin into the wild. The “I LOVE YOUUUU” of the ostriches. Hear the hyena calling at night. And also the Lions (once)!! Scratching the porcupine under his arm. Holding a Python. The Boma fires under the stars with the children and the volunteers. But also… Discovering Shiloweni (the Leopard) dead in his enclosure. See a Black Mamba in the roof above my room. Take my shower with a frog and put Giraffe poo in my mouth (because it’s part of the tradition!).
Finally, how could I forget the breath-taking sunset of the Leopard Rock, the smell of the colourful flowers, the beauty of the green bush, the peaceful noisy sounds around… The list is unlimited and the words are missing to express what Africa is really like. You have to try it to know!! Give your time as a volunteer and you will see that you are not only helping and discovering others, but yourself…
For this unforgettable volunteer adventure and for making one of my childhood dreams come true (living in the bush surrounded by beauty and animals), I would like to say a huge and warm thank you to 2 great lovely people, Ian and Michele!! You are such wonderful people who put all their hearts into this worthy cause and it was an honour for me to work by your side. Thank you for this memorable lesson of life and all I have learnt thanks to you and DAKTARI! Keep going!
In this place I felt alive, free and strong!