Anita Ferrigno - 2014 Program Participant
What influenced you to volunteer abroad?
I got so much from my experience in Africa that I decided I wanted to give something back and volunteering in a conservation project seemed to be the right choice.
What factors made you choose Imire?
I was looking for a conservation project focused on elephant care, and I got very good feedback about Imire from a former volunteer I met in another program. I was also glad to have opportunities to do something for the rhinos and enjoy some horse riding.
What makes Imire such an interesting program?
You spend a lot of time with the animals and you learn so much about their behavior. The handlers are always available to share their knowledge and to answer your questions. You are also involved in whatever happens in the park, from firefighting to saving an injured cub, and it makes you feel like part of the big Imire family.
What is the best thing about your program that future participants should know?
I chose Imire because of the elephants and rhinos. I wanted to work closely with them and this is what really happens. What you also need to know is that there are no more than 12 volunteers at the same time. The fact that the place is not too crowded allows you to create closer connections with people living and working there, as well as with other volunteers.
What was your favorite aspect of volunteering?
Spending time observing the wildlife and working with elephants and rhinos.
What's one thing you would change about your volunteer experience?
Honestly nothing. I like the way activities are planned.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
The first activity starts at 6:30 a.m. You clean the pens of the elephants or rhinos and you walk with them sometimes conducting research (filling out data about interactions, what they eat, and for how long they do it). From 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. you eat breakfast and rest. From 10 a.m. to noon you help with work around the park (rolling fences, dipping sables cows and eland, game cubes delivery). From noon to 2 p.m. is lunch time. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every day is a different activity, which can be horse riding, feeding lions and hyenas, painting poles, gardening at the school, etc. From 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. you walk with rhinos or elephants. From 5 p.m. on you are back at the house to relax.
Did you experience any culture shock?
I did not experience culture shock.
How has volunteering abroad impacted your outlook?
Generally speaking when I come back from places where many things are not so easily and always available, I appreciate much more what I have in my everyday life. On the other side I would be ready to leave all my comforts to really change my life, moving definitively to Africa, maybe working in a place like Imire. I have already booked my trip there for next year!