How I Began My Journey Volunteering

Have you ever felt trapped in life and felt there must be more out there to experience. This is how I was beginning to think and how my journey volunteering with animals began. In the summer of January 2004, I found out that I had been accepted to study the Bachelor of Animal Science. I was so happy and excited and my family were so proud. However three years later, I was definitely not as happy, enthusiastic or dedicated to the course. I knew there was something more I could be doing with my life and time.

As I struggled with the long commute, the subjects and how most of it didn’t relate to what I wanted to learn. I endured and kept at it, because everyone kept telling me how much a degree mattered in life and that I mustn’t give up. My passion and hunger to learn more about animal rehabilitation, to travel and see the world eventually took over.

I failed my last semester. It was devastating because I was so close to the end, but I knew I couldn’t continue. I made the brave and daunting decision to take a year off. People close to me kept telling me to be careful, that quitting was a bad idea when I was so close to the end. I decided to trust my instinct and do what I really wanted to do, not what everyone was telling me to do.

Since I was taking a year off, I had to make it worth while, so I did a lot of research. I wrote down pages full of prospective volunteer animal rehabilitation centers that I could join. One page for Asia, another for Central/South America, another for Europe, USA, Africa and Australia. My lists were extensive.

What was I looking for in a charity?

I was looking for a place where I could spend several months learning new skills. My aim was to be able to help with the daily cleaning and feeding. However I also wanted to educate others to help stop the issues that were affecting these animals in the wild.

Two of my close friends at the time and I had already started planning a 3 week trip to Thailand together in February of 2007, just before uni was to start back again. Since I had made the decision to defer for a year, I decided to extend my trip and apply to volunteer at an animal rehabilitation center in Thailand.
Two caught my eye, one with elephants at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai province, Northern Thailand and one with white-handed gibbons at The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Phuket, Thailand. Both of these places sounded amazing, it was a hard choice to make.

I decided on The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP).

I chose this place, because it allowed me to stay for a long period of time (up to 6 months). It incorporated cleaning, enrichment, feeding, observation, an education site and a reintroduction site. It seemed like a place I could gain a range of skills in all aspects of caring and rehabilitation. Educating the locals and tourists was an immensely important aspect of choosing this charity. As was my curiosity of seeing how they managed to reintroduce rehabilitated gibbons back into their natural habitat.

I sent an email of my interest to volunteer. After two days I had a response and 5 days later I was accepted. I sent through my application form, CV and copy of my current passport. There was no interview, or prerequisites required. My volunteer period was for 3 month starting 4th March – 31st May 2007. I sent through my participation fee which each volunteer must pay and a signed disclaimer form. I then set about applying for a visa. Luckily they supplied a visa support letter to help with my visa application.

Included in your donation is transportation to/from the project from the bus/airport terminal. Your orientation and training, project t-shirts, accommodation at the project and supervision. You will need to arrange and pay for your own passport/visa fees, travel expenses within Thailand and travel insurance. To find out more about volunteering with this project you can read about my experiences here. 

Once everything was sorted, I sent through my flight details and arranged a convenient time to be picked up at the airport. All that was left to do was pack my bags and enjoy my trip with my friends, before embarking on this exciting and rewarding adventure.

To find out more about The Gibbon Rehabilitation Project please visit their website.

6 Replies to “How I Began My Journey Volunteering”

  1. Reading this post takes me back! I remember saying goodbye to you at the airport and thinking how brave you were for setting off and doing it all by yourself x

  2. Interesting! Great insight. The gut feeling led the way. Instinct or extinct. Some times the hardest thing to trust if you don’t use it much. Reminded me of a book I listened to. I’m interested in knowing what were your experiences with the tourists. The good and bad. Are you going to be expanding on this topic on the coming posts?

    1. Thanks for your comment. Ill be expanding more about my time and my duties at the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project, not so much about the tourists. However if its something people are interested in, I can include it.

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