South Africa’s Volunteer Programs : Conservation Initiatives or Money-making Schemes

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Rhino DNA tagging with Youth 4 African Wildlife volunteers

– by Guest Blogger

Have you ever considered doing a conservation student volunteer program? The prices for the various programs available are extremely high.

If the end goal is to educate one and give them the necessary skill set to make their voices heard in conservation, then this leads us to the question; are you paying to gain, or are you paying for an experience? The difference is with the one you can continue contributing to conservation after the program ends whilst the other is just an experience, something you add to your bucket list and life goes on. What is in it for conservation then? Wasn’t the point of these programs to educate people, raise awareness and give students necessary skills to go back home and carry on voicing out and being an influencer?

I think there are very few initiatives worthy of the volunteer tag. Everything is becoming an Experience. Hiking is an experience, bungee-jumping too, but conservation has become too much of an experience. The problem with an experience is that it often remains ‘just an experience’ and doesn’t really help with the current conservation crises. Do we need experiences or more programs rather?

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Youth 4 African Wildlife's conservation education initiative in Botswana.

Most student volunteer programs are aimed at international volunteers rather than locals. There is no balance between the two, and local passionate conservationists find themselves with no platform whatsoever to volunteer and they often lose interest. An example would be a 5-day volunteer program that costs around R9 000. As a local student giving their free time and just doing community service that would be an exorbitant amount to pay.

Conservation just like many other fields has become a money-making scheme in South Africa. The focus has shifted, from protecting and conserving wildlife to rather enriching very few individuals. Not to say the target, being international volunteers, is wrong because it does generate income that keeps certain organisations running but there is certainly room to have more locally targeted programs. Every program should, in fact, have a main program (focused on international students) and in addition, various locally- aimed equivalent initiatives.

Not all programs are ridiculously expensive though, but the majority of the volunteer programs are not really volunteering anymore. The youth run social media, the youth are the future. Therefore, the youth should be the target, both internationally and locally. After all, we are all in this together and we can all contribute in different ways.



About Guest Blogger: Bavukile Vilane

17 year old Bavukile is the brains behind a social media initiative called ‘Conservation in Heart’. This passionate conservationist uses social media, photography and videography to raise conservation awareness. He lives by this mantra;  “Driven by my vision to teach who I can and save what can be saved. If I don’t, then who? If not now, then when?”

Disclaimer:

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Youth 4 African Wildlife NPC. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article cannot be guaranteed by Youth 4 African Wildlife NPC. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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