Whether you're a student or a professional, volunteering abroad can be an amazing experience. There are volunteer programs put in place for individuals to gain experience, expand their portfolio or simply enjoy themselves and give back. If you plan on working with animals in the future; this will be an amazing experience to put on your resume. If you already work around animals within your current career; this may be that adventure you've been searching for. There are opportunities for everyone.
What It Is All About
There are different programs set up, but they all have the same goal: help animals. You do not necessarily have to be a veterinarian (although there are specific programs put in place for vets). If you are willing to volunteer they will find a rewarding role for you. Some important information;
- Length of time: There are no strict rules in terms of how long you volunteer, but many of the experiences are a minimum of at least two weeks.
- When to sign up: Volunteers are able to apply year round, for as long as they please. This is great, working around your own personal schedule. With that being said, it is recommended that you apply six months in advance to get a spot in the experience you want (some are extremely popular).
- There are costs associated with these experiences.
In terms of the process;
- You look into the experiences that are offered.
- Apply (generally 6-12 months in advance). This not only helps guarantee a spot, but gives you enough time to save up some money, get your passport, etc.
- After the interview process (45 minutes via Skype or phone), you send in all your signed forms with a 20% deposit.
- Review your manual and training resources.
- Book your airline ticket and notify the company (they will arrange for your to be picked up at the airport).
- Sixty days before your trip, the remaining balance will be due. Also, you will need to provide all necessary forms (e.g. transcripts, professional licenses, vaccination records, etc.)
- VOLUNTEER and enjoy yourself.
What Your Fees Include
These experiences do cost money. You will need to book your flight separate. The fees include;
- Airport pickup
- In country support
- A donation to the place in which you're volunteering at
- Training (through manuals and training videos)
- An experience of a lifetime
Fundraising is also an option. These companies try to make these trips as accessible as possible, by providing ways to fundraise your trip.
Some of the Programs Available
You may search programs based on your skill set, location in the world or by which species you want to work with. Some of the programs available are;
- Wildlife in Australia: Rehabilitate sick or orphaned native species (e.g. kangaroos).
- Wildlife Medicine in Kenya: This is more suited for medical professionals. Veterinarian and surgical care would be administered to African wildlife.
- Elephant Care in Thailand: Many elephants are being mistreated and being used in the streets of Thailand. This is extremely hard on these elephants (some even withstanding injuries from being hit by cars). Volunteers stay and work at an elephant care centre. Providing them food, cleaning them, walking them to the lake, etc.
- Sea Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica: Provide care for sick or injured hatchlings, as well as collect eggs (poachers come and take the eggs). There are also turtle programs in Kenya, Australia, Canada, India and Greece.
These are just some of the programs available. The cost of each trip, accommodations, duties, etc. all vary depending on which program you choose. So if you are fascinated with the idea of working with animals, check out the website of Animal Experience International to explore more insightful information about the range of opportunities offered. Would you imagine yourself working with animals? Which programme would you consider choosing? Tell us in the comments below…