Jan Hanger - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

Volunteering with animals is a lifelong passion. 

Why did you choose Imire’s Rhino and Wildlife Conservation project?  

It sounded like an amazing project, and very hands on.

What was your favorite part about Zimbabwe?  

The project itself was an inspiration and has a special place in my heart

Tourists with elephants in Zimbabwe
My favourite memory

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

I had a couple of limitations, which I thought may have been a problem, but there was so much that I could do. My limitations were not a problem. 

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

I wish I had known how difficult it was to obtain cash anywhere; there is literally no cash in Zimbabwe. The locals queue for eight hours at times at an ATM which dispenses only $50, so they’re lucky if there are funds left when it is their turn. Had I have known how hard it was, I would have taken more cash with me. At the end of my volunteering at Imire, I wanted to help financially with the community projects and could only give the cash I had remaining. 

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

Up early! Loading hay to deliver to the animals, learning how to track the white rhino, walking with the elephants to observe, cleaning out the pens, working with the local kids, fixing roads, reinforcing fences, and walking with the rhino. 

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

Socializing with other volunteers, whether enjoying dinner at the lodge or relaxing at the volunteer house.

What was your accommodation like? 

We had a fantastic volunteer house. It had solar hot water showers and we had great food prepared for us. It was in a beautiful setting on the dam amongst lovely gardens.

Rhino calf and mother in Zimbabwe
Tafara the rhino calf and her mum Kamachacha

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Zimbabwe?

As far as packing goes, travel lightly. I always take old clothes that can be left behind. You really don’t need much. I usually take several pair of jeans/long pants, four t-shirts, long sleeved top and a coat/rain jacket plus work shoes. Depends on the time of year and the weather. Less is better.

What made your experience abroad unique? 

The passion of all involved. 

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?  

It is more than just working with the rhino and elephant. This project just blew me away. 

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

I had no problems communicating with the locals as they speak English well. Sometimes I had to listen well because of their accent though. The Zimbabwe people are beautiful, friendly, and gentle.

What was the hardest part about volunteering abroad for you? 

The only hard part about volunteering abroad for me is the long haul flights getting there. 

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Stayed longer.

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

It has left a space in my heart. I will remain in touch for a long time. My soul lives in Africa.

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

Volunteering abroad lets you see the reality of the place where you are working from a local perspective, and not a tourist’s version. People are honest and I have learnt so much as a worker as opposed to just being a tourist.

You really do see the reality of a country and its people. 

Would you recommend your program to others? Why?  

Absolutely! I have volunteered for many years and this was definitely the best, because the passion and aims of all involved were so inspiring.

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

I would definitely want to go back to Imire, or I would volunteer at Shamwari Game Reserve. These two places were life-changing experiences.