Deb Barilone - 2017 Program Participant

Feeding leopards in South Africa
Feeding the Leopards

What inspired you to go abroad?

Wanting to experience the world, different cultures, and experience how people live abroad.

Why did you choose GoEco?

Desire to be an active participant vs. observing as a tourist. What could be more exciting than working with lions! This trip offered scenic terrane and a comfortable climate in an area that felt safe.

What made your experience abroad unique?

Spending it in the Kevin Richardson wildlife sanctuary and learning the life of lions.

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They taught me what daily care of the animals required, and provided tasty meals, a place to lounge and relax, and the feeling of being part of a family.

What surprised you most about South Africa?

Surprised me? South Africa is so friendly, there are not very many bugs, and there is an abundance of wildlife. 

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

At 7:30 a.m. would be breakfast and a discussion of the day's chores, then hit the road at 8:00 am. On feeding day, we’d drive out to each enclosure and feed the animals while they were in a confined area, then we’d pick up animal waste and bones in the outer part of the enclosure. Later we’d go back and clean out the inside enclosures where animals were fed, picking up any bones or uneaten meat, and then scrub the area before opening it back up to the animals. 

Lions in South Africa

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Having lunch and going on a safari at a nearby game lodge. 

What was your accommodation like?

The volunteer quarters had two twin beds, each with a nightstand, plenty of closet space, and a bathroom with a shower. There was also wifi available. 

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad?

I can't think of anything. GoEco made it easy. For any trip to a foreign place the hardest part is trying to prepare for the weather conditions and to not over pack. 

What is one thing you wish you would have known before volunteering abroad in South Africa?

Again, GoEco prepared me well. Plus, I asked a lot of questions to try and anticipate my needs. The only unexpected thing was how strong the sun is even if it isn't bright and sunny - you’ll need sunscreen. 

Do you have any advice for future volunteers?

Know that there are spiders, frogs, and sometimes snakes. Also, in warm weather be sure to have sun block!

What other packing tips do you have for volunteers headed to South Africa?

As a volunteer, be sure to bring work gloves. I was very glad I brought my rain boots too, as it rained often. Check which credit cards do not charge an exchange rate fee. Also, it is best to wait until reaching your destination to buy local currency and use the MAC machines.

Male lion in South Africa
Proud lion

What was your favorite part about South Africa?

My favorite part was how warm and friendly everyone is. 

Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?

Cannot wait for my next trip! My friends and co-workers all want to see pictures and learn about my experience.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of volunteering abroad is?

By volunteering I can experience the culture, the people, and the land, and not just be a spectator. Volunteer groups are surely a special breed to be around too.

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?

Absolutely! It is an eye opener and sad to learn how lions are exploited. This is one small way we can help.

If you could volunteer abroad again, where would you go?

For my next trip I plan on going to Tel Aviv, Israel, to volunteer at a pet shelter.