Irvine Towers, 18100 Von Karman Avenue Irvine, CA 92612 United States
My inspiration for volunteering came from my love for Biology. I am currently doing a degree in Zoology. More than anything I wanted to go abroad and do what I could to help conserve the wildlife that is in so much danger but I never knew how to find these projects, until the World Wide Volunteering did a presentation showing the vast possibilities of volunteering; including animal conservation. I contacted Frontier and was provided with all the help I could possibly need to help me find and decide the right expedition for me. This was eventually narrowed down to The Orang-utan Health Project taking place in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Orang-utans are an endangered species only found in the wild in two places in the world, Borneo and Sumatra. Their survival is dangerously threatened by the expanse of the Palm Oil plantations which are replacing the primary forest lands. Everyone was very friendly and helpful throughout the process of organising the project and getting me ready to go. I would recommend Frontier without a second thought to anyone who wants an amazing experience abroad.Anchor The project was aimed at wild orang-utan conservation by investigating what plants are eaten for medicinal purposes. During my two weeks I spent my time entering data and enjoying the beautiful natural surroundings. I visited the National Park feeding platform; where orang-utans that have been rehabilitated and released into the wild are fed each morning. This was a truly wonderful experience to see the outcome of the successful rehabilitation of orang-utans from captivity. I spent 6 days living in the jungle surrounded by nature. Each day we trekked through the jungle in an attempt to locate and follow wild orang-utans, a more difficult task than some may think. Wild orang-utans are very timid and hard to find, but I was fortunate enough to see 2 groups during my time trekking. These creatures are so much more beautiful in their natural environment; a spectacular experience and one I will never forget. To end my time in North Sumatra we travelled two and half hours on the back of a motorbike to join an Elephant Safari and Nature Reserve. We stayed the night in a hotel and went for an hour long elephant trek the next day followed by feeding and cleaning of the elephants. This expedition was the first time I have gone out and done something all on my own and so was a unique but excellent experience. I was nervous about travelling to a foreign country and staying there on my own for 2 weeks but I am so glad I did it. The people I met there were so lovely and the other people on the expedition had travelled alone too and so we all got on really well. I now feel I know a lot more and can do more to assist the Orang-utan conservation, and I want to do all I can to change their future. The whole experience was exciting, unfamiliar and intimidating all at once; but was one I will never forget and one I am hoping to do all over again very soon. I would recommend it to anyone without a moment's thought. Nicola White, 20
This has been quite a year! I went backpacking for 5months, and then went home for 5weeks before my adventures in Senegal began. I had a great time travelling, and so after 5weeks at home I was getting very itchy feet and couldn't wait for a new adventure- even though I had a wonderful time back home and was feeling extremely nervous and had absolutely no idea what was in store for me in Senegal! It was to be my first time in Africa; my first time in a developing country. I did a lot of research beforehand into what it would be like in Senegal, I looked at lots of pictures on the internet and read lots of blogs about different experiences different people had whilst there, but nothing can really prepare you for what it's like until you actually experience it for yourself. I stepped off the plane late evening in Dakar- the capital of Senegal- feeling very tired and with a huge mixture of feelings- into a world full of black people and me being the different one for my first time ever. Even though I was very scared I put on a brave face and concentrated on how excited I was about this opportunity, leaving behind my nervousness- this was definitely the best thing to do- because then you make the most of the experience! I met the project coordinator at the airport (this is the guy who's family I lived with, and who runs the project in Senegal). My ride to the house that night was quite memorable- I just felt so nervous, but at the same time incredibly excited- and talking to the coordinator about all the things I would be doing whilst there got me feeling even more excited and so happy to be jumping into this big adventure! I remember looking out the window, staring at everything in amazement- noticing how different everything was- the roads were insane- just sand and sand and more sand! And the traffic was insane- one thing I had to get used to whilst there was that the cars have the right of way rather than the pedestrians- there seem to be no rules for the road, there aren't any crossings, or traffic lights, or any signs. Quite scary- but you get used to it- you just have to keep your wits about you! One of my first memories of the traffic was crossing the road and standing in the middle of a busy roundabout whilst the traffic just kept swerving around us... it's just so different! Sophie's Students: My first few days were quite surreal and it took me quite a while for it to sink in that I was actually in Africa, it took a little while to settle in- for the first few weeks I kept feeling really overwhelmed- culture shock I think. I was also quite ill for one week towards the beginning of my time there, which wasn't great- but all part of the experience! Trips to Senegalese doctors and pharmacies, where they only speak Wolof, so didn't really know what was going on, but luckily my host and his family were really kind- translating for me and helping me a lot. The few other volunteers that were there at the same time as me were also brilliant- not just when I was ill, but we all became really close- helping one another out with teaching ideas, and all sorts. To be able to have a bit of knowledge of the French language beforehand is really useful as that and Wolof are the official languages of Senegal- I'd been learning French at school for about 7 years, and am going to study it at University too. But I arrived in Senegal having not spoken French for just over a year, and actually found it really hard to understand and talk to everyone in French. But I had a few French lessons which were really helpful (so I'd definitely recommend doing that if you want to really improve your French!) and just listening to people talking and really immersing myself in the culture and taking every opportunity to speak as much French as I could, I finally was able to chat properly to everyone, and be able to understand mostly what everyone was saying. It's such a great feeling to be able to speak another language! And it'll stand me in good stead for studying French at University, so I'm really pleased with how that aspect of my time in Senegal went. I stayed with the family in a little area just outside of Dakar- it was amazing and such a wonderful opportunity to stay with a family as it meant I was completely immersing myself in the Senegalese culture and experiencing their way of life- eating whilst sitting on a mat on the floor from one big communal bowl or plate in the middle (although I'm veggie, so I had my own separate plate- and I was mostly very happy with the food I was given), using the basic kitchen consisting basically of a couple of camping type stoves and a fridge, using their toilet- just a hole in the ground and pouring a bucket of cold water over myself as my shower, doing my laundry by hand, and watching Wolof television with the family after dinner in the evenings. All this was wonderful though- so different, but amazing to experience that way of life- I loved experiencing this culture, and living as a Senegalese for 2 and a half months- you really do just have to jump right in to make the most of it. It's true that what you put in is what you get out of it. The family I stayed with were lovely- the project coordinator, his 2 children and his 2 wives- that took me a while to get used to- but they were very nice and very accommodating. His first wife was pregnant whilst I was there- and about a week before I left, she gave birth, so I got to experience a naming ceremony- amazing music and dancing, and wonderful, extremely colourful traditional Senegalese clothes- I also got some Senegalese clothes tailor made- something to treasure forever. It was amazing also to see how they all lived- they all have hardly any material goods and they have extremely basic facilities, yet it's wonderful to see how happy and optimistic they all are. It puts life into perspective- I realised how much we Westerners take for granted, and it's quite sad how materialism is a natural part of how the Western world works; yet it really isn't needed. Everyone has a religion in Senegal- the majority are Muslims- their faith is what keeps them strong and happy. Senegal is the land of the Teranga- meaning happiness and community- Senegalese life really does revolve around the family and hospitality- it's so lovely to be part of because everyone is just so chatty and friendly- you’ll be walking down the street and people will say hi and be genuinely friendly even if they don't know you. It's so nice to experience that. So now you're probably wanting to know all about the work I was actually doing there- teaching is such a wonderful opportunity, and it's so incredible knowing you're influencing the lives of many African children, helping them with something so valuable. It was sad to see how basic their schools are- it's literally just a few classrooms with the students, the teacher, the few wooden desks and wooden benches- which are so uncomfortable- I feel sorry for the students as the sit on those all day every day. There's a blackboard in each classroom, but chalk is very hard to come by if you want to write on the board. I was appalled at most of the teachers' attitudes to teaching- if they didn't feel like teaching sometimes they just wouldn't come into school, sometimes they came but they didn't have a lesson plan, they occasionally just leave half way through a lesson, and once the teacher went to the bank when they knew they should be teaching a lesson, so left me in charge of the lesson- definitely those culture shock type moments! I guess that's why they need volunteers. For the first few weeks I was just helping out a bit and observing lessons, then I started teaching an English class every afternoon to children of about 8/9years of age, interspersed with random supply type work. Teaching was very challenging, but I loved it- before each lesson I taught I would get very nervous, but once I was up there actually teaching those nerves would go away, my English class would be having a lot of fun learning which was wonderful to see, so I'd end up having a lot of fun teaching all my lessons. During my first few weeks of just observing I felt like I wasn't doing enough- so I ended up asking for more- I told them what I wanted to do- that I wanted to teach them English- so again, what you put into it is what you get out of it- just ask if you want more responsibility, or if there's something you're not happy with, just say. But teaching is definitely such an eye opening experience, especially in a third world country. It's great to become like a friend to the students, and it's amazing to see them so enthusiastic about learning- I'd meet them in the playground and they'd always ask me 'are we learning English again today?' Their response being 'Yay!' when I said yes, and they'd always see me and chat to me in English and say the things I had taught them- which was always wonderful to hear! I fell in love with the Senegalese culture, I really did- even though there were a couple of things I really didn't like, such as the treatment of animals and men asking you to marry them- so you must be mentally prepared for that- make up a husband or something, and even maybe wear a ring on your left hand! Sophie at the Temple: But other than that the culture is truly wonderful- the ethos of it; the happiness they spread. It's a world of music and dance- the dancing is spectacular- so unique, there is no one in Senegal that cannot dance! I had a go, but it really is as hard as it looks! The Senegalese drum is called the Djembe- I had quite a lot of lessons and bought a drum myself- I found a passion for playing the Djembe, so definitely take that opportunity if you get it! It's amazing to make music in a big group of friendly people- it's such a great happy atmosphere. We made friends with the guys we jammed with- they're all such wonderful people, I had the best time hanging out with them and making music with them. Some of my best memories of my time in Senegal are playing Djembe with them all on the beach watching the sunset over the sea. The Senegalese clothes are wonderful- amazing patterns and colours, the markets are spectacular- so busy, you have to keep your wits about you all the time, and learn to haggle! Usually I went with Senegalese friends I made, so that wasn't an issue, but I did try out quite a bit of haggling which I'm proud of! There are people everywhere trying to sell you everything and anything, but you have to learn to say no and be forceful if you want them to leave you alone. Senegalese fruit is just mouth watering- I ate so much fruit during my time there- a couple of my favourites were fresh coconut, and delicious mango- we ate mango almost everyday as it's so cheap over there. I miss mango a lot now I'm home- I've tried hunting for some, but there is no compare- I have not yet found a mango here that tastes half as good as the ones in Senegal! I really miss my life I had for 2 and a half months in Senegal, I really miss the place, I really miss the great people I befriended. I miss walking down the street and being yelled at because they were all so excited to see a white person, I miss meeting new people and chatting in French to everyone about the Senegalese way of life, I miss trying out words in Wolof. I would definitely recommend this project to anyone who's interested- and I would say just jump in there and make the most of every opportunity. It was such a wonderful opportunity and a real eye opener- I have loads of amazing memories that I will treasure forever. I definitely want to go back to Senegal one day, and also would love to experience more African countries. 'You don't remember days, you remember moments'- it's true!
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and it has definitely been an unforgettable experience. My host family was amazing and I definitely hope to return one day! I absolutely loved the Fish BBQ and hope that the tradition continues! I hope to continue the djembe playing when I return! Thank you Lamine (djembe professor) for being so patient! I hope that future volunteers enjoy the Senegalese experience as much as I have!
I was welcomed by a hospitable family, which doors were always open for me. In spite of and especially thanks to all the problems I encountered it was one of the most valuable experiences of my life. I made new friends, discovered another culture, learnt to be more independant, have more self-confidence, and really improved my french.
I recently visited India on a teaching project for 4 weeks which I found through Frontier. The project took me to many places in India - to Bangalore, Mysore and Goa to name a few and the skills and experience I have gained through the project is invaluable. As well as teaching me a lot about Indian culture and history it also taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to see my true potential through many emotional and some physical extremes! I can honestly say teaching children in India has been one of the most rewarding and fruitful experiences I have had and has given birth to a wealth of ambition and drive in my work here in the UK. Frontier was always helpful and information every step of the way and displayed an extremely high level of competence and expertise at all times which gave me constant assurance of my safety and well-being while on unfamiliar soil. Overall I'd give the whole experience a 10/10 - my only regret is not staying longer!
I enjoyed every minute of my time on this project, the kids were so amazing and it was great to know I was making a difference, even if only in a small way, to their lives. I organised art classes and taught the kids how to draw and be creative. They all really seemed to enjoy this as it was something different and fun! I also helped teach English which I hope will be very useful to them one day! But most of all I just enjoyed hanging out with the kids, getting to know them, messing about and just having fun! It's a project I would definitely recommend!