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By Mark Bottell
Do you want to divide your time between working with animals in Malawi and teaching local communities? If so, a Born Wild holiday could be the perfect solution.
Malawi is perhaps best known as the country where Madonna controversially adopted her children, David and Mercy. The star received a lot of negative press for allegedly using her celebrity status to bypass local residency laws. But whatever you may think about the latest in a long list of celebrity adoptions, you can't deny that the star has been as good as her promise and is currently working towards giving something back to the country. At the end of October, Madonna returned to begin construction on the Raising Malawi Academy for Girls that she is using her cash to fund. The £9.2million project will take two years to build and if the school is successful then the model will be replicated across other developing countries.
It's easy enough to give something back to the world when you have millions in the bank, like Madonna. But how can we, with less affluent incomes, help support communities that have substantially less than us? The answer is by taking a volunteerism holiday, this unique holiday combines a stay in a foreign country with time spent helping out local communities or working with animals.
A Born Wild experience is perfect because rather than deciding whether you want to spend your time educating local communities, teaching children soccer skills or working with animals you can mix your trip up a little and combine all three. However, participants in the project are encouraged to find their own area of expertise in which they are best able to contribute.
If you believe that you are better adept at working with animals than teaching sports, then you may want to concentrate on the conservation side of volunteering. Visitors that select this option will get to spend time on game drives carrying out ID on native wildlife, such as elephant herds and lions. Erosion control is important so staff may find themselves planting trees and building ditches to prevent the flooding of game reserves. This is important because if erosion control is not carried out, the vegetation in a flooded reserve may die out leaving the animals with no food or shelter. With many newer game reserves built on derelict farmland, guests may spend their time removing wire and rusted metal from parts of the reserve. This helps ensure that animals have a much safer environment to roam and also helps prevent the onset of any injury.
Volunteers can also choose to spend some time working with local communities and this is a rewarding way to give something back to the local community. Whilst working with animals is an amazing experience, sometimes it can be more rewarding to see the first-hand effects of your work. Watching the childrens' faces light up as you teach them numeric skills and visual arts definitely makes for a rewarding experience. Budding Beckhams can also choose to help by teaching the children soccer skills or arranging a village game of volleyball. These exercises not only help to bring the community together, but are vital in teaching basic hand to eye coordination. However, it isn't just children that you can choose to help but local businesses and organizations too. You can assist in book-keeping and creating business plans or simply teach the basic principles of financial responsibility.
Whether you choose to spend your holiday working with animals or communities, volunteerism shows that you don't need Madonna's millions in order to give something back to the world.
Mark Bottell is the General Manager for Worldwide Experience, an online tour operator offering extended breaks working with animals and various adventurous gap years for adults.
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