Chloé: fulfilling a lifelong dream – Volunteer in July 2019
Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Chloé. I just turned 27 years, wooow that’s old! I was born and raised in Belgium and have been traveling all my life but mostly in Europe.
The reason I decided to come to DAKTARI is not that simple. I have had this life long dream of going to Africa and volunteering to make the world a better place. Because I think that everyone who is in a good place, should do something for the greater good. But that is another discussion. Some time ago I needed a change in my life, a big change. Don’t get me wrong, I do have an amazing life back home. I have a great job, lovely family, good health, amazing friends and my awesome boyfriend. But it felt wrong for some reason. I found myself having a lot of problems, the kind of problems that aren’t really problems. Sounds weird right? I think so too. So one night I was out and talking about what I want to do with my life. And then it hit me… I needed to make my dreams happen. Because, let’s be real, 27 is getting old already (at least that is what they keep telling me).
So then my journey started, I needed to research some programs of volunteer work I could do in Africa. So I went to the Google-god and found this travel agency and booked an appointment. Once I was there I told them that I wanted to go Africa to do volunteering and afterwards maybe some vacation; you know … when in Rome euh … Africa? They gave me like over 10 opportunities. Each one of them had a good intent, but was not fully what I was looking for. So then she brought up DAKTARI and I instantly knew… that was it! She told me it was a program to teach unprivileged children and work with animals. I was sold instantly! I booked my entire trip in 5 minutes after hearing about DAKTARI. Even the girl booking my trip asked me 5 times is I was sure about it. But hell yeah! I was!
So time flew by, and about 6 months later I am finally here! And let me tell you this, this place is amazing! What an experience! Let me tell you about my day. I am an early bird so I wake up everyday before my alarm clock, around 6:30. I am usually one of the earliest persons in de Lapa (our living area/meeting point/eat place/…) and I might start writing in my travel journey (that thing keeps my biggest secrets so no touching it!). About half an our later other volunteers might start showing up and at 7:30 we go on our morning walk with the dogs. After the dog walk we start with what they call stabling; mostly feeding and cleaning the animal’s enclosures and making sure these cute babies are fine. After we feed the animals it’s our time to eat! Then we start with the teaching of the 8 children we have that week. They are so cute. They start out shy an quiet, but trust me, that doesn’t stay long… We teach about necessary skills and information; classes about respect, making an opinion, job opportunities (my favorite lesson actually), how to make South Africa a better place… Working in a group makes it better so you don’t have to teach everything yourself and when necessary you can have a rest. After dinner the volunteers meet at the Lapa and hang out, have a chat,…
What is amazing here are the people in DAKTARI. The compassion, the kindness, it makes me happy for the future of this place. Because this is the future for these kids and the future of the world. They say this is a family, but heck yeah it is!
Before coming here I wanted to have some time to think about my life and where I want it to go. You can believe me, this place is therapeutic. If it is not working with the animals for you, it’s the people around who have their best interest in you. So I have made up my mind. I know what I want in my life and I really am in my happy place. Do you know what you want??
Next to doing the curriculum and working with the animals you get the opportunity to do excursions. You have to do as many as you can while being here. I went to Tshukudu game reserve, what an experience! I got to see a lot of awesome animals and even went on an walk with the cheetahs. I went on a boat tour, did the panorama tour, had so much fun and even had to go to the emergency room. Nothing to do with being wild or doing stupid stuff, but my body just isn’t good at dealing with the change of food. But these guys got me to the doctor, gave me medicine and have me all pampered up. So they really are a family away from home.
My favorite DAKTARI animal is so hard to choose. I like them al. I guess my favorite has to be the blind donkey Eeyore or the food-stealing marmoset Thor. These animals are an amazing teaching instrument for the kids. They have to come on the dog walk, have to help with cleaning the enclosures, feed the animals,… It all comes down to respecting each other and the animals. And I do think that DAKTARI is the best place for these kids to learn this.
If you are planning on coming to DAKTARI, which I do recommend, you have to stay at least 3 weeks. Now I wish I could stay longer because my 3 weeks went by soooo fast, it is unreal! The first week you get to know the place, get to meet the people, the second week you get more secure and comfortable so your teaching goes better, and the third week is already my last one. Last group of kids, last lessons, last bonfire … please stop the time! I want to stay a bit longer…
And if that doesn’t make any sense to you, just come here yourself and find out …
Chloé over and out