Danielle is a 20-year-old from Northern Ireland. Her life was changed forever when she volunteered abroad in Zimbabwe, and her perspective of the world is entirely different now.Interviewed on - 29 March 2017
I have always been fascinated about Africa. Since watching The Lion King as a child, I've always wanted to go. I love helping others, especially children, and always wanted to volunteer in another country.
I chose the teaching and lion project because I wanted to help the community; I mean, why go volunteering if you're not giving back to the community itself? I also chose the lion project because why wouldn't you? It's lions!! I've always wanted to see lions in the wild, so obviously I would go and do it.
I can't specifically say which part was my favourite because they all combine into one. The scenery, for a start, was just absolutely amazing. My pictures have never done justice for what it was really like. The people from the local community were so nice, which surprised me. Everyone had a smile on their face and was always willing to talk.
My own personal experience was unique because I was able to get involved with the street kids and spend most of my time with them. I got close with a few of the boys and I have stayed in contact with them, which is amazing! Getting to know their story and what they have been through is just heart warming. I thought I would be going over to help them, but in actuality they were the ones to change my life instead.
The staff were fantastic! Any questions I had, they always helped me get the answer; maybe they didn't always know the answer, but they always pointed me in the right direction. Even staff that I never really spent any time with due to other projects would still come up and ask me how my day was. They always wanted to make sure you felt safe and comfortable.
I wish I stayed longer. The amount you do is incredible, but I feel like one month was not enough. Yes I did miss home my second week in, but you have so much going on that it’s sort of pushed to one side and you focus on the task instead (which is a good thing).
I wrote a diary while I was away and I'm so happy I did. In the morning before breakfast you get the choice to walk with three lion cubs or have a lie in. At 8:00 a.m. is breakfast, until 08:30 if you’re on a community project, otherwise it was until 9:00 a.m.
If it was a drop in day, then we’d drive into the city of Gweru and leave our stuff at the centre, then walk to buy groceries for the street kids while waking them up on the way (note: the groceries were funded by people donating money through the Alert charity or directly). Once we got our groceries and headed back, some volunteers would help cook a meal while others would socialise with the street kids, by either playing card games, playing with a football, or just talking. We’d sometimes do a lesson with the kids about basic life skills too.
Once they have eaten their meal after the lesson, then we’d take them over to a soccer pitch and play soccer with them. The kids enjoyed it a lot as it was the only time they got to interact with other people.
In my free time, there was always other activities going on so I really enjoyed spending my free time with the elephants. I got to hand feed them, walk with them, and interact with them.
My accommodation was really good. We had room mates, which was good fun, because at night you got to socialise with your roommate; it was easier to make friends that way too, so you weren't isolated. The room was quite spacious and there was a volunteer lounge where all the volunteers were able to socialise and get to know one another.
They should know that no matter what, they will have a good time. I was terrified about going away from my family for a month, but it actually was a home away from home.
Oh it definitely has! I thought going over to help the children would make an impact on their life, but actually it has impacted my life more. Being able to see a different side to the world is just life changing to see in your own eyes. I mean I can say anything I want here, but if you don't see it for yourself then it won't have the same impact. Before I left I worried about the most silly things, and once I've came back my entire family has noticed that I look at life completely different.
Of course I would! It was the best thing I have ever done, so I would want other people to see what I have seen.