"Some days I feel South Africa was the worst decision I have ever made... But more times I feel it was the GREATEST thing I have and will ever do in my entire Life. My name is Heather Lowry, I am 27 years old I am from the United States and I went to Cape Town South Africa from Jan 5th to Feb 19th 2013.
Volunteer work has always been a big part of my life, Aquariums are my passion. I learned about SANCCOB through and Aquarium I was volunteering at. I watched a video that was displayed above the South African Penguin exhibit. In the video they spoke about rescuing and saving South African penguins in Cape Town South Africa. I continued to watch the video weekly and found out some of the people working at my Aquarium has been there. I decided to email SANCCOB and come over to help. I saved up for a year and finally left for a life changing adventure in January 2013.
Through SANCCOB I learned about the AVIVA house and eventually traded emails with multiple friends. I spoke to two girls, one from Canada and the other from Singapore mostly. One of the amazing things that the AVIVA house does it let you connect to people who will be going to SA around the same time as yourself. I became very close to some people before I got there which made the massive leap to half way around the world completely easier.
I joined SANCCOB for the minimum amount of 6 weeks and at first I felt how would I get through 6 weeks being away from home, after the FIRST day of being there I wished I joined for a longer period of time. I live on my own and going to a house FULL of people worried me. In my bedroom alone I had 13 other girls. But they were girls who eventually became my family. I looked forward to meeting other people who would share my love for water animals and couldn't wait to start my volunteer work! I gave myself a few days to get used to the different lifestyle before I started at SANCCOB.
Throughout my writing I will give you some advice that I wish I knew before hand. Wear SUNSCREEN!! I went in the middle of summer and the weather was AMAZING it wasn't even hot so I didn't wear a crazy amount of sunscreen because I wanted to go home with a tan. I turned purple!! Wear sunscreen!!
My first day at SANCCOB was beyond exciting!! Even though I was only doing syringes I was just so glad to be apart of something bigger than I have ever known. If you choose SANCCOB to do your volunteer work with please take in mind before you give them your word you're coming to help out... IT'S NOT EASY!! It's hard work... the hardest work you probably will have to do. You clean penguin poop A LOT, they poop and poop and poop and poop. So... get used to penguin guano and the smell. The days are v-e-r-y long. If you don't seriously have a passion for animals and PATIENCE and are somewhat lazy this is not the program for you to do. I lost weight and got in way more shape than when I first arrived.
The feeling of helping a species that might not be around for our grandchildren is unlike a feeling I have ever felt. The people that work at SANCCOB, would die for these birds. You will smell at the end of the day... and your house mates will smell you when you walk in the front door... a smell you wont smell on yourself after a few days. It will go away... I promise. Just take a shower daily haha. Follow the rules that SANCCOB will give you... even if you feel they are stupid. You will eventually see they are rules that make sense.
Get sleep!!! Sleep is your BEST FRIEND. The penguins are cute, you will learn that they have their own personalities and temperament's. Some might want nothing to do with you and they're terrified of you. You have to have patience, I had the pleasure of working with a young man named Lucas from Germany and he has never worked with animals and he was THE BEST at it. So you don't need experience to do well with these little guys.
Everyday since I have been home I think about SA. I miss everything about it!!. Make sure you do things on your days off... you will be tired but just do it, you will regret not doing everything you can. Climb Table Mountain as soon as you can... don' t wait till the last minute. I was able to visit Lions Head, Snorkeling with Cape Fur Seals which was AMAZINGGGGG! Cage diving with the beautiful Great White Sharks and the weekend Safari.
Remember that you are in a foreign country... SA has its safe spots and dangerous spots. Make sure what you bring with you can fit in your pockets, don't wear unnecessary jewelry. Go to the Green Market and buy beautiful things!! Don't become Home Sick, your home will be waiting for you. Try new foods, meet new people, listen to different music. South Africa makes you blink twice before you can realize how beautiful nature truly is. Be open!!!
I cannot wait to book my next trip to the AVIVA house and South Africa. "The things that you do for yourself die with you, the things you do for others marks your place in this world" -Unknown. "