Alumni Spotlight: Kath Retourne


Kath was a financial journalist in London but wanted to do something that made a difference to the community and environment. She went to South Africa in March for six months and blogged about her adventures, she is now looking for her next adventure.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the conservation internship because it was a mix of both wildlife and community. I wanted to ensure I experienced and learned as much as possible.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

GVI was there to advise on everything I would need to go. It was then up to me to arrange flights, visa, doctors appointments etc, but GVI were around if I had any questions or problems.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Embrace every single moment, push yourself out of comfort zones and make as many friends as possible, the time will go quicker than you think and you will be left with incredible memories. Also, pack light, you probably won't need half the stuff you take with you, so just some good quality trousers, shorts and some very comfy walking shoes.

Take as many pictures and videos as possible to remember your time. If you like to write, I would recommend writing a blog, not only is it a great way to keep friends and family back home up-to-date with your adventures, you can inspire others and also have a permanent record of your time to look back on.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

There were typically two drives a day which lasted about four hours, we would track the cheetahs, record data on any of the big five and learn tracks, signs etc. Additionally, there was a trip once a week to the local school to teach the children about conservation.

The interns received extra talks and visits to Kruger to learn about conservation and wildlife management.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was concerned that I would be the oldest (I am 35) person there and that I didn't fit the stereotype of a volunteer. Actually, the age range was really varied and everyone had the same passion for conservation which meant friendships were quickly formed.

My view changed that there is no such thing as a "typical" volunteer and I now have friends in all corners of the world from all different backgrounds and ages.