Asta Alexandersen is from Nyborg, Denmark and currently taking a year off from school before she starts studying. Meanwhile she’s working in a supermarket to save up some money. Asta is 19 years old, enjoys a good run, and has a passion for animals and their well-being.
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Zanchieta Wildcat Farm?
The decision was in fact quite spontaneous. I had never heard of the place or what they did, but I knew I didn’t want to spend an entire year just working before I started studying.
So I went online. While being totally unaware of what I was looking for, I scoured quite a few pages of various travelling and trips around the world, but it was only when I saw the project at Zanchieta, that I stopped looking for other alternatives.
I’ve always had a passion for animals and their well being, so as I kept reading about the project, it became more and more obvious that I had to go! Also I have never been one to lie on a beach for two weeks when travelling.
When I go out into the world, I do it to experience something, see something, get to know new places, and new people. Therefore, volunteering at Zanchieta Wildcat Farm seemed like the perfect way of spending 8 weeks of my life. I went there to make a difference for the animals, and make their life at the farm better.
Anyone wanting to volunteer should keep this in mind before they order their stay. When you volunteer, you volunteer to work. Not saying that the workload was heavy- not at all!!-, but as people came and went, I came to notice that some of them hadn’t realised that they would have to work when they came to the farm.
They had somehow imagined that they could just play with the animals all day, and then that was it. Playing with the animals is part of it, however, it’s not all there is to the volunteer experience. So if you go, go open-minded. Don’t be the girl tanning in the corner when everyone else is making an effort to help the animals.
What was the best moment of the trip?
Animal interaction time: One of the best parts of the day! You get around an hour a day, where you can just be with the animals. Play with them, cuddle the ones that are safe enough to cuddle, or just enjoy having a meercat sleep in your lap. It’s amazing to be so close to the animals!
When you can see that your work has made a difference: After a load of rain, the grass in the camps had to be cut down. This in itself is not particularly interesting, but it is so rewarding to see how much you have achieved in only one and a half hour!
Also you know that you are helping the animals a lot, since snakes and spiders could hide in the tall grass, and end up biting an animal.
Nights out and off-days: Nights out are the best! Since we are off on Saturdays, Friday night is often spend eating out, having drinks, going to clubs, or doing whatever the volunteers are in the mood for. Plus you get to know the other volunteers so well when you work together, live together, have fun together, and party together!
Personally, I have had the pleasure of adding people from, England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, South Africa and Denmark to a new list of people which I shared an amazing experience with, and most of whom I am certain I’ll never forget.
Tell me about one person you met.
I’ll tell you about Malan(a staff member at Zanchieta), because he is one of the big reasons why I consider coming back to Zanchieta later on. Malan is one of the most humoristic, hilarious, friendly, always-laughing people I’ve ever met.
And he’s extremely passionate about the animals, especially ‘his boys’, the two brown male lions, Kalahari and Okovongo. He’s really one to bring up the best in people, because he’s always at his best! I came to love Malan as a friend, and I really don’t hope the distance will ruin that, because then I will have lost one of the best people in the world.
What do you the miss the most about South Africa or your experience?
I miss the people. Definitely Malan(having water-fights with him!!!), Minna, Kim, Hester, Nora and Jeana, and pretty much all the other volunteers I met while I was there. And I miss the animals sooo much!
I miss playing with Casper(young white lion), petting Diva(cheetah), running with Elsa(adult brown lioness) alongside her fence and hiding for her. I miss the babies, Lebombo(Serval) and the meercats. Even the two meercats that bit my ankles!
How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, etc)
I’ve always known that I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up, but I didn’t have any experience with other animals than my dog and my cat. Being at Zanchieta and getting to work with and for the animals, and to play with them, has only confirmed that I really want to work with animals. Preferably as a veterinarian, because then I’ll be able to help the ones who really need me.
And now I know that even if I can’t be a veterinarian, I still want to work with animals and help them the best I can. Also, being there has given me some extra points when it comes to getting in to the veterinary medicine education.