‘A talkative bird will not build a nest’ sums up our approach to charity work and ‘giving back’. It speaks to our ethos of ‘deeds, not words’, which many of our travellers share. We’re often asked by our clients how they can directly benefit the communities or animals they’ve encountered on their journey, so we’ve prepared this list of ways to make a personal contribution to Africa that continues giving long after you’ve returned home.
If you can give… TIME
Time is the most limited asset you have on vacation but ‘voluntourism’ is on the rise, especially in Africa where projects can be very labour intensive and the need for on-the-ground carers, researchers and recorders is so great.
Since you will be spending time living at the project with other volunteers and project staff, it pays to research as thoroughly as you can. Find out about meals, sleeping and ablution arrangements, and the specific tasks you will be doing: you may think penguins are cute, for example, but feeding and cleaning a wriggling, distressed bird can result in a very painful nip!
Two of our favourites are Marine Volunteers and Africat. At Marine Volunteers, you work on the shark-cage diving and whale-watching boats off Dyer Island and Kleinbaai in South Africa to help record vital information about these endangered sea creatures.
At Africat, you’ll help with the all-important annual health checks of carnivores in Namibia that contribute to understanding the stability of their populations and the effects of agricultural and other human impacts. Former Go2Africa CEO Joanne Dickson completed two stints at the centre, including one with her teenage daughter, and recommends the experience for adventurous travellers.
If you can give… MONEY
Some may argue that it’s not money that’s the root of all evil but the lack of it. Every charity in the world depends on funds that feed a never-satisfied maw of medical, fuel, food, shelter and other expenses. If you are concerned about how your cash will be used, scour the charity’s website for a breakdown of how the money is spent or what the annual costs are to, for example, employ a single vet for a year or keep a 4x4 running for a month. Never give to unregistered projects.
African Safari Expert Ashley Gerrand recently had a client who wanted to anonymously support a worthy programme. We helped him select Children in the Wilderness, which does incredible work introducing young African children to the bush in Southern and East Africa. It is startling how many African youngsters have little experience of their natural heritage and have never seen wild animals compared with children who visit Africa on safari.
The Big 5 may soon be reduced to the Big 4 if rhino poaching continues at its present horrifying levels. We are proud to support Rhinos Without Borders, a programme to move vulnerable rhinos from poaching hot spots to a military-protected sanctuary in Botswana, where a new breeding nucleus is being protected to ensure the future of the species, and that your grandchildren's children will still be able to see wild rhino on safari. The foundation is sponsored by two of our preferred travel suppliers, Great Plains Conservationand &Beyond - they cover all the running costs so the only deduction from your donation is the processing fee charged by the bank. It costs $40 000 to relocate one rhino safely and humanely, and the foundation has identified 100 individuals that are at risk right now of being poached. Every Dollar helps – in fact, $1 will buy you an adorable origami rhino that is a constant reminder of your contribution to saving the rhino from extinction.
One of the easiest and simplest ways to give money directly is to tip your safari staff generously. Unemployment is high across much of Africa, most especially in remote areas on the edge of wilderness preserves. Salaried workers often support large extended families that may include orphaned nephews and nieces. Many use their tips to provide necessities like school fees, rent and clothing for relatives.
If you can give… STUFF
Like time, it can be challenging to give ‘things’ to charity when you’re on vacation, unless you are specifically visiting a volunteer project. Pack With a Purpose recognises the limitations of baggage restrictions and keeps its suggestions (like pencils, stethoscopes and even soccer balls) down to five pounds or less. In remote areas, items we take for granted are hard to come by and playing football with a proper ball rather than a bundle of tied-together rags can make all the difference to a child’s life.
A project that the Go2Africa staff support every year is Santa’s Shoebox, which distributes school stationery, candy and clothing to vulnerable children in South Africa and Namibia. The beauty of the project is that you can buy the items while on holiday and make arrangements with your African Safari Expert to have your shoebox collected and delivered.
Talkative birds don't build nests, so if you'd love to spread a little joy on your vacation, join us in turning good intentions into concrete actions – make an online donation, pack pencils and other necessities or volunteer at an animal sanctuary – you can actively help build a happier, healthier and more prosperous Africa. Here’s to talking the talk and walking the walk!