Author: Thomas van der Stoel

I have seen and learned many things, but most importantly, that it can be quite hard to realize the scale of the situation in Africa when you’re not in Africa. I learned that coming here gives you a kind of clarity of the situation. It’s like opening your eyes for the first time and actually understanding what you’re dealing with.

My name is Thomas van der Stoel and I’m 19 years old. I’m from the Netherlands and currently volunteering in Africa for eight weeks with African Impact. I decided to volunteer because I had nothing better to do. I dropped out of school earlier this year, so it was either start working or do something useful. I chose the latter.

I’ve learned so much since my arrival. African Impact has taught me many things about African wildlife, conservation, and what it’s like to have a functioning family (one in which everyone gets along).

I have seen and learned many things, but most importantly, that it can be quite hard to realize the scale of the situation in Africa when you’re not in Africa. I learned that coming here gives you a kind of clarity of the situation. It’s like opening your eyes for the first time and actually understanding what you’re dealing with.

thomas-volunteer

Thomas joined a wildlife conservation project in South Africa and realized how much volunteering can open your eyes to the world

Why should you come here?

First of all, why the heck not. It’s amazing over here! There is so much to do and so much to see, and you will be welcomed by an astonishing family of people that are all awesome in their own way.

The staff is amazing, the guides are always up for a talk and a laugh, and the managers are so incredibly helpful. Trust me on one thing, you’ll feel more at home over here than in your own home.

There is also variation in work. Like a lot. So you won’t get bored. The weekly schedule has so many different activities, so there is always something to be done.

Finally, personal growth. Like I said before, when you come here it’s like you open your eyes for the first time. It’s going to change the way you look at things and change the way you live your life. You are going to be a different person when you go back home.

volunteering-group-south-africa

While volunteering you will cross paths with many amazing people who will become friends, and may even feel like family

What do we do here?

During your stay, you’ll get to try out lots of activities. Game drives, snare sweeps, litter picking, project work, community work, and the list goes on. Besides the weekly schedule, you also have things to do on the weekends.

These trips and tours are of your choosing. Go to the Kruger National Park, kloofing in a canyon, and drive through mountains around the Panorama Route. The options are plentiful. You can also just use the weekends to chill and relax with friends and staff.

Bottom line: You’ll never be bored around here.

blyde-river-canyon-south-africa

A volunteer trip to Africa will give you a chance to do and see amazing things

Why is volunteering important?

By volunteering or doing an internship with African Impact you’ll help gather valuable data that is being used for the conservation of multiple critically endangered animal species. Because of your help, rhinos might not go extinct in the next 20 years. Yeah, it’s that bad already. Sad thought, right? However, you volunteering might be what’s needed to turn the tide against poachers and hunters.

Maybe during a debate about rhino poaching you’ll come up with such a brilliant idea that it saves an animal species from extinction. Not many people can say they did that, or even that they contributed to a cause that is trying to prevent the extinction of a species.

This is just one of many examples why volunteering is so incredibly important to organizations like African Impact.

leopard-tree-kruger-national-park

Volunteering can protect critically endangered animals and even prevent species from going extinct

What does the future hold?

The future is always a difficult thing to talk or write about. Mainly because it’s so uncertain.

For example, African Impact’s future relies completely on donations and interns and volunteers signing up for projects and programs. If people stopped coming here, African Impact would no longer be able to do that work they do, and all the important data they collected would become outdated and useless.

So please come and join our family. If not for the experience, then do it for the amazing (but endangered) wildlife species that Africa has to offer.

elephants-kruger-national-park

Volunteer organizations like African Impact would not be able to do the work they do without volunteers

My personal favourite experience

My favourite experience was about halfway through my stay.

We were in a park on our way to remove an invasive plant species called river thorn that was killing other plant life. Out of nowhere, we get radioed by the owner. There’s a lion cub with the three main male lions of the park. All we heard was, “Strap in, it’s going to get bumpy”.

We raced to the owner’s location as fast as possible, dodging all kinds of hazards along the way. It seemed like every single animal was standing in the road or wanted to cross it.

We finally got there and that’s when I saw this cute, little fuzzy lion cub. Immediately I fell in love with it, and in turn with Africa.

lion-cub-kruger-national-park

Seeing a lion cub, or any baby animals, in the wild is an incredible experience that will make you fall even more in love with Africa