The Game Rangers International welcomes around 90 volunteers each year and each of them brings unique skills and personalities with them. They support each of our 3 programmes in so many ways. We talked to Guadalupe Alvarez to get her perspective of Game Rangers International and what it means to be a Volunteer.
Guadalupe travelled all the way from Mexico to Zambia to take part in the programme. Since her return, she has stayed close to the organization and continues to support us in a variety of ways.
What made you decide to volunteer with Game Rangers International?
I love elephants and I wanted to learn more about them.
Did you volunteer on your own, or with a friend or relative?
No, I travelled alone.
Were you nervous before you headed off?
I was, Zambia is so far away from Mexico, I had never camped before, and I was worried about the food. I wasn’t going to know anybody.
How comfortable were you with the information provided before your trip?
I was very comfortable. You do a great job at letting us know what we need to do and what we should expect.
What were your first impressions when you landed in Lusaka and headed to the first camp at the Elephant Nursery?
The first thing I saw was Bessie’s (Volunteer Host) big smile at the airport. This made me feel at ease. I then met Joseph (Volunteer Driver) and he was so nice. Both of them took time to explain everything. It was already dark at the camp when I arrived, and the sounds were so calming. I really felt good.
How did you find the people you met, both the locals and the team at GRI?
I loved that everybody smiles, from the keepers to the drivers, Bessie, Rachael, Sport, the women we met at the Women’s Groups, the children. All of the smiles made me fall in love with Zambia.
The volunteer programme is designed to involve you in the 3 pillars of conservation that GRI cover, Wildlife Rescue, Resource Protection and Community Outreach. What were your takeaways from experiencing the holistic view of conservation?
It was very interesting to understand how GRI works, not only for the elephants but for the Rangers and the communities. Understanding that without community participation conservation is not possible. I think the decision to show us all the sides of what you do is very important for us to learn how we can also do more.
The distance between camps can mean an almost 7-hour drive. How did you find the traveling between camps?
I found it easy after it took me 52 hours to get to Zambia! Travelling a few hours in Zambia was easy. Also, it was very interesting to see the roads, the people, and the houses. Everything was new and interesting.
During your placement, you started at our camp in Lusaka with the Elephant Nursery and Wildlife Discovery Centre, Camp Musa on the second week and on the third week Camp Phoenix which is adjacent to the Release Facility. Did you have a favourite camp and why?
It is hard to say because they are so different. Lusaka was special because you see the baby elephants. In Kafue at Camp Musa, you are by the Lake (Itezhi Tezhi), and it is beautiful, Camp Phoenix is incredible. I really liked all of them.
What would you say was the highlight of your trip?
I cannot say I had only one. Of course, the elephants, but meeting Bessie, Joseph, and the other volunteers. I enjoyed meeting Victor and finding out all that he does for students. Also, meeting the women of the projects and teaching them how to start a business. I really loved the lake and meeting with Sport (Beattie, Founder of GRI), he knows so much.
What parts of the trip did you find particularly moving?
Hearing the stories about the orphaned elephants and going to the schools in Kafue; learning how much the children need water, classrooms, and books.
Now that you have returned home, do you think you will continue your relationship with GRI and with conservation?
Of course, the elephants, the Rangers and what GRI does for the community made a great impact in my soul. I am committed to visit and be part of your projects more.
If you would like to join Guadalupe and become a volunteer with Game Rangers International, please find out more below.