Alumni Spotlight: Yvette Cox

A 60 year old retired University Lecturer.

Why did you choose this program?

I have always wanted to work with animals and Twala offered a unique experience. Volunteers are treated as part of the team delivering care to a wide variety of birds and animals.

I was born in Zimbabwe and have wanted to visit it for a long time; this gave me the opportunity to go to Zimbabwe and be fully supported.

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

From the first contact I made to enquire about volunteering I felt like I was chatting to a friend. I arranged my flights and the team at Twala met me at the airport and looked after me throughout my stay. We were taken sightseeing on our days off and looked after in every way. The food was good and accommodation comfortable.

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

Volunteers need to expect to muck in and be a part of a great team. We were fully supported and there was always someone to ask advice from. Look at Twala’s Facebook pages to get an idea of what to expect. I was thrilled to be given responsibility for a baby owl, but initially felt nervous, I needn’t have felt anxious because I only had to ask and one of the team helped me. Take a nail brush!

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

Each day starts with food preparation and then delivery of the food to all the animals, which gives you the opportunity to see them up close and to interact with them. Enclosures are cleaned; dogs walked and time is spent enriching the lives of the animals.

Volunteers get to go out on animal rescues and also participate in fundraising activities. Once a week, there is a dog clinic where around 600 dogs attend to be fed (all participating dogs are vaccinated against rabies and neutered free of charge by Twala). Orphan and injured animals are cared for by the volunteers. No two days are the same & there’s always a lot of laughter.

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 about traveling to Zimbabwe because of the political situation. The Twala staff look after the volunteers extremely well. The Zimbabwean people are lovely and I found them to be honest, hardworking folks with terrific sense of humor. I felt completely safe throughout. I came away feeling that despite the desperate political situation Zimbabwe is a great place to visit and I will go back again.

Do you have any advice for a future traveler?

It’s better to volunteer for 2 weeks or more (I was there for a month and wished I could have stayed longer). A week goes by too quickly and other volunteers that stayed just a week said that they didn’t have time to get to know all the animals.

Twala is a magical place, I was amazed at how different species interacted; e.g., one evening Horace the vervet monkey came in the front door of the volunteer house and went up to one of the dogs asleep on the settee, gave her a hug and then wandered out the back door. Only at Twala!