Sarah Cox - 2014 Program Participant

Elephant crossing the road in Africa

Perfect timing to catch an elephant crossing the road

What inspired you to volunteer abroad?

I had always wanted to visit Africa! I wanted to see rhino in the wild.

What attracted you to African Impact’s program?

It had everything I was looking for, and they were super organized. I felt like all my questions where answered. I booked a year in advance, and African Impact stayed in touch the whole year.

What was your favorite part about volunteering in Africa?

The absolute beauty. Sitting in the lodge and watching warthogs and monkeys running around. Hearing the hyenas and lions at night. It was so unbelievable.

What makes Africa Impact one-of-a-kind?

How much love the staff have for the local wildlife and culture. They all love what they do so much; it's very contagious. I felt like a little kid sometimes, I had so many questions, and everyone was always willing to answer!

What is one thing that surprised you about volunteering in South Africa?

How incredibly diverse it is! In South Africa alone there are 11 official languages. There are so many traditions and cultures and ways of life. As a volunteer, everyone loved to teach me different things, and there was so much to learn!

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

They were always there, not just during work time but during downtime as well. They were always willing to share their knowledge, teach more zulu words, anything.

If you could go back, what would you change about your program?

Stayed longer! I was not ready to leave at all.

Anti-Poaching Unit preparing for a sweep in Africa

Preparing to snare-sweep with the Anti-Poaching Units

When you arrived, what is one thing you were kicking yourself for not bringing?

Gloves and a hat! It was very, very cold in the mornings. Don't assume that because it's Africa that the winter time doesn't have a chill!

What was a normal day like for you as a volunteer in South Africa?

Get up SUPER early, quick breakfast, then get into the truck! Three hours on the reserve, tracking the animals and observing and collecting data. Then back to the lodge to work on data entry, special projects, etc. Then lunch, and back in the truck! Some days instead of a morning drive, we would do work in the reserve. The most interesting, but heartbreaking, was removing poachers snares with the Anti-Poaching units. We found a lot.

What did you enjoy doing outside of your regular schedule of activities?

I got an opportunity to go into a local community and work at a youth group with about 80 children. It was exhausting but so much fun. The kids were great and loved to play. I'm so glad I got that chance.

What type of housing did you have? How did you like it?

I shared a nice two bed chalet with another girl. It was simple and cozy. I spent very little time there, it was much more fun to be in the lodge with everyone else! However I loved laying in bed at night before I fell asleep listening to the wildlife.

What can volunteers expect from the food in Africa?

The food was pretty good; very carb heavy on the reserve. Our chef liked to throw in lots of local dishes too (i highly recommend Malva pudding, it's amazing!).

How much has volunteering abroad changed your life?

In a huge way! I decided to go back to graduate school for conservation biology! I just gave my notice at my job and will soon be starting classes! African Impact helped me find my calling.

How has contributing to conservation efforts in Africa made you more aware of environmental conservation needs around the world?

It really changed how I looked at things in American Culture. For example, when I went over to Africa, the Ice Bucket Challenge was happening here in the U.S. At the time it seemed cool, but after being in Africa and seeing the severe water shortages, it really made me realize that water is a precious commodity. I've been so careful not to waste water since I've been back, and have stopped treating resources as inexhaustible.