Name: Mary Penfold
Age: 53 years
Dates of stay: 2-29 June 2015
Your background: Retired police officer
Why did you decide to volunteer?
I currently volunteer at my local RSPCA Centre, which involves looking after the dogs in their care. I decided it would be great to try and help with some wild animals and get a greater insight into the conservation work carried out in another country. Having never been to Africa this was a great opportunity to combine volunteering with travel.
Why did you choose Lilongwe Wildlife Centre over other projects?
This project seemed to offer everything we wanted to experience and is accredited by the Born Free Foundation, which I found reassuring.
What kind of work did you get involved in? What did you enjoy the most/the least?
I was mainly involved in feeding some of the baby monkeys and the 4 baby owls. I also helped carry out duties required to keep the Orphan Care and Animal Care kitchens running on a daily basis e.g. chopping fruit and veg, washing towels, cleaning enclosures, etc. I was also able to get involved in one of the Pre-Release projects (for monkeys)being carried out at the centre. My favourite task was feeding the baby monkeys and watching them interact with each other – fantastic! My least favourite job would be collecting browse, but I appreciate the need for it and once a group of you head off to collect it, it can be done quite quickly (only a very short part of the day).
Can you describe a typical day?
A typical day for me was to get up at 5.30am, to prepare day chicks for the owl feed at 6. Then breakfast for me, followed by some monkey feeds at 8. The morning would then involve working in the OC or AC Kitchens to prepare fruit and veg for different feeds throughout the day, as well as regular monkey feeds. After lunch I would continue with the jobs in the OC Kitchen and prepare food for the later owl feeds at 4pm,6pm and 8pm. I had time to fit in my own dinner around this and following the last feed would shower and relax for the rest of the evening. I would usually go to bed at a reasonable hour, ready for an early start the next day!
What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the charity work we do?
I think that the work carried out by the centre is really effective as they involve local workers as much as possible, which helps to spread the conservation message within local communities. The staff are really passionate and enthusiastic about the work they do, which shows through not only to volunteers but to visitors of the centre and in the outreach programme that is in operation.
If you have volunteered at other projects, how do we compare in terms of volunteer experience/welfare etc?
I have volunteered on an English teaching project in China, which was a great experience and currently volunteer at my local RSPCA Centre, which I really enjoy. Although one of the older volunteers at Lilongwe I found it to be a fantastic experience, giving unique opportunities in animal care. The staff are really friendly and always on hand to help with any issues that may arise.
What are the staff like?
The staff at the centre are a really friendly bunch who are ready to help at any time. They are more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise to make the volunteers stay more enjoyable, encouraging everyone to get involved. I felt I was able to learn a great deal from a relatively short stay at the Centre.
What have you taken away from your experience at LWC?
I really enjoyed my experiences at Lilongwe and it has made me realise how little you actually need to get by in life. Also that often giving your time can make as much of a difference as giving money. Since returning to the UK I cannot recount my experiences to friends without a big smile on my face and have encouraged many of them to give it a try! I’m even taking my own advice and returning in January for orphan season!
What could be improved?
I would only reiterate what Debbie has said about the social gatherings – being older and preferring to go to bed earlier due to some of the early starts, it would be better to hold them away from the accommodation, so that everyone gets their beauty sleep!!
Who would you recommend this project to in future?
I would recommend the project to any of my friends and family (and have done already). It is a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the different way of life!
Out of 10, how would you rate:
Your overall personal experience 9/10
Vol facilities e.g. accommodation, food etc: 9/10
Staff and management (professionalism, approachability etc) 9/10
The effectiveness of the project in helping Malawi’s wildlife (welfare, conservation etc) 8/10