Author: Anna Burdzy, Miss Great Britain 2017

Miss Great Britain Universe 2017, the lovely Anna Burdzy, hung up her pageant sash last month to join us on our Big 5 Research and Youth Empowerment project in the Greater Kruger Area of South Africa. 

I have a law degree and a masters degree in law under my belt. Between the two I filled a couple of years with travelling, ticking off over 20 countries! A passion for exploring new cultures and sights developed into something more special after representing Great Britain at Miss Universe as it gave me added opportunities that went beyond mere travelling, but added substance. As Stuart (the head honcho for African Impact’s conservation projects in South Africa) here and all round amazingly inspiring guy) said, rather than using the word ‘volunteer’, he prefers ‘ethical and responsible travel’, with which I totally agree and believe we should aim for. I have worked with acid attack victims in India, elephants at Wildlife SOS in India, hugely underprivileged children in Manila and Bangkok, as well as the homeless both in the US and the U.K.

Anna working with children at a primary school on our Big 5 Wildlife Research and Youth Empowerment Project in South Africa.

My masters degree specialised in human rights law, something I’m extremely passionate about, but I have always had a love for wildlife and a slight obsession for my favourite animals, elephants. Now anywhere I visit tend to gift me some form of elephant as I’m so vocal about them! Having seen the impact and difference of work like this, I decided to go for it and finally follow my heart to Africa on the Big 5 project, but nothing could have prepared me for it. As I sit by the lodge pool in the sunshine reflecting on my time here, it’s hard to explain the magic of Africa to someone who hasn’t been, but I will never forget my first game drive. The majesty of these animals is awe inspiring and it’s incredibly humbling to be able to see wildlife in the wild, exactly as they should be.

Anja van Zetten - Volunteers on a game drive with African Impact

Volunteers on a game drive with African Impact, undertaking research on a herd of elephants.

Being able to collect data that aids in their conservation is the least we can do and it adds such a great focus and passion to the drives. Knowing this data reaches a wider network who then fight for the protection of these animals fuels the fire and makes all the early starts worthwhile, which are actually effortless knowing what’s to come! In my first week I have learnt SO much from the incredible staff who have unlimited passion, energy and knowledge for the work they are doing here. Along with the research work, we help with conservation work such as removing alien plant species, ecology work, assisting the Farmers of the Future scheme by helping local people striving to set up their own businesses and, added to that, we help children develop their English skills at reading club.

Volunteers and Anna enjoying an evening at the lodge

Anna and her fellow volunteers at African Impact’s lodge in the Greater Kruger Area

The lodge staff are so friendly, the food delicious and the lodge is beautiful. We stay one night in an overnight camp which is an adventure! I woke up, walked out onto the decking and saw a hippo grazing on the grass. What a thing to be able to say! It is always special to cross paths with people from around the world who share the same interests as you, making memories and having such a laugh. Tomorrow we visit Kruger Park which is one of the many weekend activities available to us! Thank you African Impact for the hospitality but more so for the amazing work you do!