What is your role at African Impact? What inspired you to join them?
Marnie: I’m a Destination Manager, which means I handle enquiries from potential volunteers and work with them all the way through their booking process, until they arrive at their chosen project. It’s inspiring to be able to share my own previous experiences of many of the areas where our projects are based – having been in the hospitality world in general, and the safari industry in particular, for many years.
It’s great to be able to use the knowledge I’ve gathered so far, in this role. I’d been looking for a position that fits me for a long time, and I’m glad I waited for this opportunity!
What do you enjoy most as far as your role?
Marnie: This is difficult to say. I enjoy talking to potential volunteers on the phone or over Skype, as it’s so much more personal than email. You can get a real sense of their excitement, which is cool! I also enjoy being part of the sales team, where we have lots of laughs. I like the sense of achievement when a booking is confirmed, and it’s very satisfying to hear from volunteers once their projects have come to an end and they’ve had the time of their life!
The fact that my projects all have the common thread of being conservation-based is absolutely brilliant, as it’s close to my heart and I’m very happy to be involved in such exciting and diverse activities. I’ve just come back from a “tough day at the office” – doing something I’ve always wanted to do… shark cage diving! To see great whites in their natural environment was out of this world, and I feel very lucky to be able to do this as part of my job.
What is your favorite story of a volunteer's experience with African Impact in South Africa?
Marnie: I love the story about our volunteer who joined our Veterinary Project here in Cape Town… despite being born deaf, she was super excited to travel from her home town in USA, all the way here, on her own at such a young age (19, I believe). It was her first trip away from home and once she arrived, she really got stuck in and quickly became a popular addition to the volunteer team. She inspired many people while she was here, and I’m sure the experience will stay with her forever.
What should every volunteer considering South Africa know?
Marnie: If I had to choose one area, I’d go with KwaZulu-Natal and the area surrounding our Thanda projects. Unless you’ve personally experienced the sheer intensity of a Zululand summer, with its humidity through the roof, it’s hard to prepare yourself for what it’s actually like. It’s such a fascinating time of the year too, with all the frogs and insects reappearing after the dry season.
Make the effort to learn some of the Zulu language. You’ll find that the Zulu people are fiercely proud of their culture and it’s such a rich, beautiful language. Take time to explore your surroundings. There is so much to see and experience!
What tips/insights do you have for first-time volunteers abroad?
Marnie: Come with an open mind and a sense of adventure. Expect the unexpected! Know that in Africa, things often don’t go according to plan… and there’s often a lot of fun to be had going off the beaten track and “making a plan”.
There will often be times when you feel like the heat, or the dust, or the sun, is just too much. But remember, when you’re back home and re-living your memories, it will all have been worth it. Finally, be careful when coming to Africa. Once you’ve experienced it for yourself, you’ll always want to come back for more!