Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with GVI in Kenya?
Lauren: I wanted to get more out of my vacation than just visiting a place, I wanted to visit the culture and dig my hands in their everyday routine. Living intertwined with the local communities is more enriching than anyone who hasn’t done it can comprehend, and it’s well worth it, even when you’re a working professional like myself with only a few weeks of vacation time.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Lauren: We would conduct dolphin surveys on a dhow every day and scout a variety of transects around the Kisite-Mpunguti National Marine Park. Furthermore, we would track the GPS coordinates of other fishing boats, sailing canoes and the activity of the surround tourist dhows (in regards to the dolphins). Then, when we’d spot a pod, we’d use a zoom lens for photo identification and follow them at a distance for up to two hours. Back at base, we’d cross reference these photos with a database of dorsal fins. Occasionally, the staff would conduct coral reef surveys while snorkeling, and we’d monitor the surrounding mangrove habitat while on hikes during our days off.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Lauren: I work in the adventure travel industry, so this experience has really helped shape the way I view foreign aid and international volunteer opportunities, most of which I’ve always been skeptical about. GVI is doing an excellent job at blurring the line between tourism and volunteer work – not to mention – most Kenyans were surprised we’d be willing to work for free.