Seeing the world while helping others – there’s a thought!
A lot of the time when we travel, we do so for our own pleasure. Whether we are jetting off on holiday or are heading off on an adventure of a lifetime, often it’s for our own enjoyment that we are travelling. While that is all well and good, there is another kind of travel that it is worth considering undertaking – travelling to help others.
Have you ever considered doing some exploring that will allow you to help other people (or animals)? Studies have shown that travelling to help others is one of the best ways to travel, as well as one of the most popular. Many travellers choose to travel in a way that allows them to help those less fortunate than them because they find that the work they do is totally and completely rewarding, and enhances their time abroad.
Does the concept of seeing the world and helping other people out at the same time appeal to you? If the answer is yes, then you may be interested in taking advantage of one of the ideas below.
Do a TEFL program
Are you an excellent teacher? Do you have patience and understanding? Then perhaps doing a TEFL project – AKA Teaching English as a Foreign Language – could be ideal for you. The fact is that when it comes to travelling abroad and helping others at the same time, teaching English as a foreign language could be the ideal way to do that, especially if you are someone who loves to teach and is understanding and patient. (For anyone wanting a future career in teaching, this is definitely the ideal way to travel and do your bit for the world.)
Raise money for charity
Not born to be a teacher? How about opting to raise money for charity instead? The fantastic thing about choosing to raise money for charity is the fact that there are so many different things that you can do, from undertaking a sponsored skydive to looking into charity walks, there are various options to choose from. How about, as you travel around the world, you find a new way to raise money in each country that you visit, and then donate it to a local charity of your choice? Just think how much money you could raise.
Join a conservation project
Do you care about animals in a big way? Then the perfect way to give something back while travelling could be to join a conservation project. Whether that means helping sea turtles in Fiji, orangutans in Borneo, or big cats in Costa Rica, it doesn’t matter, all that matters is that you are able to see the world while giving something back to it, and a conservation project could be the perfect way to do that.
Travel is a vital part of life; it’s something that every single one of us should aspire to do. However, so is helping others, which is why combining the two can be a great idea, and a fantastic way to make more of your time seeing the world.
I’ve always had a fascination for the animal kingdom, so being rich in nature and wildlife, Costa Rica has been on my travel wishlist for a while. Costa Rica covers just a tiny proportion of our planet yet is host to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, something that the nation is particularly proud of. And you don’t have to venture too far to see some of its native creatures. Just relaxing by the pool at our hotel in Manuel Antonio we managed to spot lizards, capuchin monkeys and various birdlife, including toucans!
As someone developing a keen interest in all things zoological, I decided that I would like to combine my sightseeing holiday with volunteer work, so spent a week at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, around 20-30 minutes from Juan Santamaria International Airport.
We were picked up by a driver at the airport, along with 3 other jetlagged Brits. We arrived at the centre late afternoon and were shown to our 12 bed dorm. There are around 5 dorms in total and most were almost full, accommodating over 50 volunteers in total – alot more than I was expecting!
We met the owner Bernal and his howler monkey, Feluco. Feluco is an orphan whose mother was killed by a dog. Because he lost his mother at such a young age, his immune system is very weak. He also has a cleft pallet which gives him breathing problems. Feluco would stand no chance of survival out in the wild but luckily he is very well looked after at the centre. We learnt more about the other animals and the centre itself, but I will tell you more about the story of the rescue centre in another post.
The next morning we were given a tour of the centre which at the time of our visit is home to an assortment of birds including parrots, owls, a peacock, a curassow and some chickens and ducks. There are also pigs, goats, 3 types of monkey (howler, spider and capuchin), two and three toed sloths, a tortoise, porcupine, marmoset, opossum, hedgehog, squirrels, two kinkajous, an olingo and a couple of pet dogs. There was also a toucan but as it was going to be released back into the wild, only the resident biologist was allowed anywhere near it.
As volunteers, the only animals besides the toucan that we were not responsible for were the spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys and some of the baby creatures inside the animal hospital.
For your first two days volunteering, you must shadow someone and not enter the enclosures, with the exception of the goats and pigs. I must admit being a little wary of Oscar the male goat, but the mama and two baby goats were sweet. I did enjoy going into the pig pen and we were encouraged to go visit the pigs to stop them from getting lonely.
A typical day
7am – Breakfast in the common area.
8am – Meeting in the common area – this is to go over any points of discussion and extra duties (one day every single person got involved in shifting a spider monkey cage, for example). Each volunteer is put into one of five teams and then each team has set tasks for the day on a morning and afternoon rota. The rota is repeated every 5 days so everyone has a chance to be involved with different animals and different aspects of the work.
A typical day may go something like this…
Clean enclosures and supply fresh food and water for: the goats, the sloths beside the goat enclosure (aka The Goat Sloths), the owls, peacock, curassow and parrots.
Collect grass for the goats.
Tidy the garden.
The morning shift would usually last until 11am.
12 noon – Lunch in the common area.
1.30pm – Meeting in the common area.
Clean enclosures and supply fresh water for the porcupine, hedgehog, squirrels, opossum and teen sloths.
Feed the squirrels.
Give the porcupine, hedgehog and opossum their snacks at 4pm.
Give the teen sloths their branches at 5pm.
Feed the porcupine, hedgehog, opossum and teen sloths at 7pm.
The afternoon shift would usually last until 4pm. Of course, every day was different as if your team were responsible for some of the nocturnal animals that day, you had a few jobs to do after 4pm, but who’s complaining when you have a kinkajou climbing on your head at the 7pm feed! You aren’t supposed to touch the animals but an excitable kinkajou did decide my head looked like a fun place to climb!
6pm – Dinner.
10pm – Lights out.
There was a swimming pool and some hammocks for chilling during down time. The living conditions were basic and I didn’t mind the cold showers and sharing a dorm, however the sleeping wasn’t easy due to the various, and quite loud, noises of the local wildlife and vehicles on the nearby road. My body also ached for somewhere comfortable to sit – yeah yeah I’m an old granny alright!
The people at the rescue centre, both staff and volunteers, were really friendly and the work felt very rewarding. As someone who volunteers at a cat rescue centre close to home, it was a great learning experience to be so close to the native animals of a different country, and I could tell that the other volunteers felt the same.
I would like to thank Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center for being the wildlife warriors that they are and for allowing me to play a small part in their story.
And I would urge anyone who wants to make a difference, no matter how small, to get out there and do it!
If you would like to help the CRARC you can donate money, supplies or your time by following this link. And for more information, including the best time to visit Costa Rica there are some great resources online!
It seems a little odd that I’ve leapt from my January favourites straight into a post of my February favourites, but February has been all about one thing and one thing only, or rather one place only… Costa Rica!
So here are my Five February Favourites.
I haven’t had chance to write any blog posts because I don’t tend to do that while I’m on holiday, but I have been alot more active on instagram than usual. So if you don’t already follow me, go ahead and check out my collection, especially all that amazing Costa Rican wildlife. Find my instagram here.
As you may already know, I volunteer at home for the Cats Protection, but I have wanted to do a volunteering holiday for a little while now. After a bit of research I discovered the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Centre and ended up spending a week with them before travelling around Costa Rica. It was a truly rewarding and memorable experience.
I do love to see animals when I’m travelling and Costa Rica is very well known for it’s rich and diverse wildlife. I will most likely write a post just about the different creatures we saw because we saw THAT MANY. Didn’t manage to see ‘The Little Five‘ but then there’s always a reason to go back, right?
There was vibrant art all over Costa Rica – from quotes left by travellers at the rescue centre, to stunningly detailed murals of the local flora and fauna. My favourite were these souvenir masks carved by an indigenous tribe known as the Boruca. There were some incredibly beautiful and huge (expensive) ones but we bought a smaller and more affordable one to put up on our global art/souvenir wall at home. Seeing all this art made me very excited to get the paints and pencils out for the art class I’m about to start soon!
5. Money… Costa Rican specifically
As I said before about the art in Costa Rica, even the Costa Rican bank notes are art in themselves! Hardly surprising for such a good looking country though.
This was just a little taste of what’s to come on the blog, but follow me on instagram to have a sneak peek at some of the sights and creatures I saw!