Alumni Spotlight: Colleen McGilpin

Colleen McGilpin is studying Animal Science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and she turned twenty years old when she was volunteering in South Africa! She hopes to work with animals in the future and she also hopes to volunteer abroad again in the future. She grew up with a lot of pets and have always care for them!

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with African Impact in South Africa?

Colleen McGilpin

Colleen: I had wanted to volunteer with the African Impact for a long time! I heard many great things about the organization on their website. I love to volunteer and to help out in the community in my hometown. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to volunteer abroad because I feel that it would be a great experience.

I decided to volunteer with the African Impact because they are a well known organization around the world. There are so many projects from the African Impact, including orphan care, medical and hospital care, HIV/AIDS research and support, teaching, sports coaching, animals, and much more.

I decided to volunteer with the Veterinary Assistance and Abused Animal Shelter project because I grew up with many animals in my life and I hope to work with them in the future. I believe taking care of pets has taught me how to be responsible.

The African Impact organization has many great volunteer projects with animals and I wanted to help animals in South Africa. Cape Town is such a great city to volunteer in because many people are struggling in the city. There are many animals who need our help in South Africa. Volunteering in Africa can make a huge difference for anyone.

What was the best moment of the entire trip?

The Puppies at TEARS, which is much like the animal's shelter.

Colleen: I made many great memories while volunteering in South Africa. The best moment of the trip would be meeting inspirational people from all over the world. As soon as when I arrived in Cape Town, I couldn't believe how wonderful the people were.

I volunteered with the Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS) and Wenga's Cat Farm in Cape Town, and everyone was passionate about helping animals. I was inspired to see how people were trying hard to save animals from the streets in Cape Town. The workers and volunteers at the TEARS and Wenga's Cat Farm take care hundreds of animal everyday. I was able to help the veterinarians with performing surgeries on animals. I learned a lot from the veterinarians.

I also met many other great volunteers at the house where I was staying. All volunteers from African Impact loved to help the community. It was a great feeling to know that many people want to give back to the community in South Africa. I volunteered for five days a week, and I was able to go on many great activities on the weekend!

I went to shark cage diving, Lions Head mountain hiking, city bus tour, visiting Boulder Beach and Cape of Good Hope. I even spent my birthday in Cape Town while volunteering on the project! It was the most memorable birthday ever.

What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

Cape Town

Colleen: I have learned a lot in South Africa. I have never traveled or volunteered abroad before. It was my first time volunteering in another country. I was unfamiliar with some languages in South Africa, and many other volunteers from my house spoke Dutch or African as their first language.

It has made me wanting to learn other language, since English is my first language. Cape Town is very different from my hometown, and it was so nice to learn many new rings. It was hard for me to see how many people are struggling in Cape Town and that there aren't enough of people helping out. I learned all about the food, the cultural, the people and many others.

The most challenging part is to learn about the money. I was very unfamiliar with African money, but I was able to learn it! The most inspirational thing I learned about the culture in South Africa is the community called Masiphumelele. I have never seen anything like Masi before, and it has opened my eyes.

Many adults, children, and animals in Masi are struggling to survive. It is a very poor community. Everyone was having a hard time without any money or food. It was amazing to see how people from African Impact help them.

What was the hardest or most challenging part of your experience?

Colleen with the owner of Wenga's Farm who takes care of all the cats.

Colleen: The challenging part about the trip was to fly alone for 30 hours to South Africa. I was little scared because I have never traveled outside of United States before. African Impact has opened their arms and warmly welcomed me to the volunteer house as soon when I arrived.

I think the hardest thing during volunteering in South Africa was to see how people were struggling. Many parts of Cape Town are very poor and most people didn't have much of support. They were having a hard time to find food or to raise money for their survival. Some people built their own homes because they couldn't afford to get a house.

While volunteering on the project, I have seen countless people on the streets begging for money and food. It was absolutely heart breaking to witness it. The volunteers from African Impact do their best to help, but there weren't enough volunteers. Many animals have died because their owners didn't want to keep them.

I have witnessed many dogs and cats being hit by a car because their owners threw them out of their homes. There were a lot of animals on the streets, and it was hard to rescue them all. The amazing part was that the workers and volunteers from my project were trying their hardest to rescue animals.

Has your worldwide changed as a result of your trip?

Colleen: The trip to South Africa was a life-changing for me. I loved everything about it. I believe volunteering in Africa has made me to appreciate my life much more. I appreciate my family, my pets, and my life more and it helped me to understand how I should be happy with my family. I had never seen people struggling so much before going to Africa.

It made me want to help people and animals in more countries. Africa has helped me to understand that there are countless of animals and children that need our help. I hope to volunteer abroad again because I had an amazing time and it was an unforgettable trip.