Done with University, I had to ask myself WHAT NOW?
Selfies, Facebook Likes, or a local girlfriend are quite tempting reasons to volunteer abroad. If any of these are your reasons for volunteering abroad, then I advise you stay in your home country and have a cookie. Volunteering is helping people in need voluntarily without reward, and the greatest reward is personal growth and knowing you have invested in the future. Volunteering may have deep and positive effects to both the community and the volunteer if the intentions of the project are good and noble.
After all, helping people and the environment generates good feelings and happiness for yourself, as well as to those people you are working with. You could argue there are many other ways to achieve the same goal, like donations. But I can guarantee you nothing is better and more effective than actually making a direct and physical impact on people with your help.
"Volunteering in Zimbabwe was a turning point in my life"
After choosing to volunteer abroad, the next question was ‘But Where?’ - Zimbabwe
The friendliness and the hospitality of Zimbabweans means I did not live to regret that decision. Doing the Tiritose online application and Wesley communicating with me throughout the process and chatting to me via Skype settled all my concerns and I felt prepared. Zimbabweans are always welcoming and smiling.
You will experience the hospitality at a homestay family dinner or when you attend the Boma dinner in Victoria Falls, a feast like a no other. The host plays drums and collaborates with the diners, filling the atmosphere with dancing. In the city of Harare, you will feel like you exist in a wonderland, particularly in summer. Standing at the Avenues (area with apartments in the City Centre) while two rows of blooming Jacaranda looking at you on the left and right. The purple guardians bring beauty and strength at the same time. Next to calmness, there is business.
My Worksite - Mukuvisi Woodlands
I was interested in gaining more knowledge about conservation work in a third world country, but I also wanted to remain in a City setting. Tiritose organised my placement at Mukuvisi Woodlands, a nature reserve located just 7km from the City Centre. By volunteering at the nature reserve, I brought no cost to the organisation, which freed up their budget and could employ more Zimbabwean interns who received a stipend, whilst fulfilling their academic credit.
Together with the team, we educated children or youngsters who visited the woodland through lectures and information about the flora and fauna within the woodland and environmental knowledge in general such as pollution and climate change. In practice, me and my colleagues were involved in the organising of COP – 21 climate change quiz and treasure hunt - which was then showcased at the National Gallery.
We also helped improve the garden, planted some vegetables close to the office so there would be food for the people who work at the nature reserve. I, personally started to make household cleaning liquid and essential oils by using fruit peels such as orange peels. At the same time, recycle and reuse the bottles at our trash place by making the liquid in the bottles. To promote the idea of sustainability; which can be very simple and waste can be a part of the product life cycle.
I loved the “open” woodland the most, it was always a pleasure to stroll around, walk close to the animals and observe the nature where you can learn something you didn’t expect to learn. A funny moment is when after arriving to volunteer in Zimbabwe, I wanted to live (camp) in the open woodland and live with the animals, which shocked and surprised everyone! I enjoyed a lot working at Mukuvisi, the colleagues are my source of happiness and they were very supportive and lovely!
Zimbabwe needs a variety of skills and expertise from all over the world including and in particular its own country to boost its progress. One way is to let foreign nationals volunteer in the country to help build capacity, and experience its current societal influences, cultural uniqueness and the authentic Zimbabwean people. Let one person spread the news to other people, which makes it true and effective. Zimbabwe need us, and we need Zimbabwe!
About the author: Gavin is a recent graduate from University of York in England. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Environment, Economics and Ecology. Gavin spent three months in Zimbabwe volunteering at Mukuvisi Woodlands and then spent a month travelling in Zimbabwe and neighbouring countries like South Africa and Namibia.
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