Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary, a unique, ethical volunteer experience

Twala Trust Animal Sanctuary

About

Twala Trust is a non-profit organization providing a safe haven for animals of many different species in need in Zimbabwe. All the animals in our care are rescued—we do not breed, buy or sell animals. Our work includes wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, an exotic pet rescue, the famous Waggley Tail Club - a unique kennel free dog rescue for elderly and disabled dogs, and an established community outreach program working with rural dogs.

Twala provides a unique hands on experience for volunteers to live and work in an African animal sanctuary and a rural community, making a genuine difference. With limited numbers of volunteers working with dedicated staff, this is an ethical and rewarding program for animal lovers.

Volunteers participate in every aspect of our work - animal rescue and rehabilitation, veterinary care, building habitats, creating enrichment for the animals, and assisting with our community work.

The program is ideal for Vet Students, individuals, and families.

Founded
2012

Reviews

Default avatar
Mimi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Incredible Experience

I am 24 years old and wanted to travel to Africa on my own after finishing my Master's Degree. When I was looking for a volunteer program, the most important point for me was the welfare of the animals and to make sure that I don't go to a program that prefers the economic value over the animals. I found Twala and was immediately sure that this Place will be the right fit, and I wasn't disappointed!! At Twala you will be living in a Volunteer House in the middle of the Animal Sanctuary surrounded by the animals that you will be helping to care for.
There is a lot to do every day and it is a perfect balance of physical work and fun free time. You should be prepared that from the minute you wake up, you are surrounded by loving and very cuddle needing dogs, cats, and birds to the minute you go to bed. The gratitude that you get and the relationships that you build with the animals are truly remarkable.
Sarah and the entire Twala Team were super nice and welcoming. It was fun to get to know the culture better through the daily talks with everyone while working and caring for the animals. It was also very nice that Sarah organized many activities in the surrounding area, so I could experience the country and culture even more.
I stayed for 1 month and I can not wait to go back to Twala in the future.

Default avatar
Claudia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Twala family

I simply love this place! The last time I was there was in April 2021, my 3rd time. Twala feels like a big family of animals and people and once you stay there you become part of it. There can max be 6 volunteers at a time which basically means you matter! There's a lot of different things you can do but the most important one is loving the animals 😊
I highly recommend following Twala on Facebook, the stories are wonderful, you'll get a good sense of the sanctuary and it'll leave you with a smile 😊

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go! 😃 It'll be one of the best experiences you'll have!
Default avatar
Laura
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A unique experience with a lasting impact: in today's crazy world, Twala is a place of love and hope

I first learned about Twala Trust on a documentary programme and the main message that came across was harmony. Animals of all shapes and sizes were living peacefully together and forming the most unexpected friendships. They were well cared for by the Twala staff and I was pleased to learn that Twala accepted volunteers regardless of having prior experience with animals or not. I had long wanted to work with animals in some capacity and Twala seemed like the perfect opportunity. From the moment I reached out to Twala to receive information on their volunteer programme, I knew I had come to the right place. Everyone I interacted with was welcoming and offered their assistance to make my visit as best as possible. As soon as I arrived, I felt at home. Twala staff have the kindest, most generous spirits. They provide much love and care to their resident animals and are just as loving and kind to the volunteers they welcome. You truly feel at home! Living at Twala among the animals is a unique experience. In the early morning hours, you are awakened by the sounds of donkeys, lions, peacocks, cockatoos, parrots, and others! I actually missed the morning wake up calls once I got home! Morning food prep is a great time to begin the day, chatting with the staff, enjoying coffee together and delivering breakfast to the residents. Another highlight of the day was the daily walks with the Waggley Tail Club - the beautiful dogs who have found a forever home at Twala. These dogs are amazing and have so much love to give. There is never a dull moment at Twala, whether it's Horace the vervet monkey up to his daily antics, or the group of cockatoos on the veranda chatting loudly, there is always something happening. My most memorable moments of my time at Twala are caring for the baby vervet monkeys Artie and Benson. Benson in particular had an immense impact on me and one I was not prepared for. Benson arrived a few days before I left, and I became his substitute mom for that time. He was found dehydrated and alone; it is not sure what happened to his mom. The poor guy was quite traumatised. He was not able to sleep alone in his cage, so he slept snuggled into my neck. I completely fell in love with Benson. I cared for him up to the last moment before I had to say goodbye to Twala. I know he is in good hands now and I wish the best monkey life for him. I am so very grateful to have been able to come to Twala. It gave me renewed hope in this crazy world where we are constantly being fed negative stories. It is so wonderful to see a group of people completely dedicated to caring for the local community and working to preserve wildlife. They are true heroes. I highly recommend volunteering at Twala. I am already making plans to return; Twala has won me over!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Volunteers have the possibility to go on day excursions. One day we went on a game drive at Thetford Private Game Park which has a rhino sanctuary. You see the rhinos at the end of the drive when it's their dinner time. We were lucky to have seen a new addition to the rhino family, a baby rhino only 8 days old. Amazing!
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Nicole
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing veterinary volunteer experience.

I had previously volunteered at Twala in 2014 and 2016, which sparked my interest in a career involved in animal care. I went on to train as a veterinary nurse with a degree at the Royal Veterinary College and qualified this year. I came back to Twala just after qualification to gain experience and utilise the skills I have learnt in an environment that needs them the most. Having just got home from 4 months at Twala, I can honestly say that I have had the most amazing experience in caring for and treating new species - not just dogs and cats, but also horses, donkeys, ostriches, duikers, tortoises, owls, servals, civets, monkeys and squirrels.

The community outreach programme for low-income families was one of my highlights. This involves feeding 400-600 dogs per week, sometimes it being their only meal, and seeing the happy faces on both dog and owner. As a veterinary volunteer, I would assist the resident veterinarian Vinay with vaccinating dogs against rabies and overseeing interesting cases. I also assisted the vets in surgery with sterilising these dogs; I gained so much surgical knowledge and experience. Being an integral part of this programme was highly rewarding.

At Twala, each and every volunteer is treated as part of the family. Twala trustee Sarah will take you in with open arms and make you really feel at home, and Twala manager Collin will look after you and provide lots of laughs. Volunteers live together in a house at the heart of the sanctuary and get involved with all aspects of working with the animals. It truly is a hands on experience in an extremely ethical way, with the animals interests and needs put first. It really is the definition of a sanctuary - a safe place for people and animals.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I nursed a dog with severe distemper on the sanctuary, and got her from the brink of deaths door to a healthy and happy dog. This is a disease I have been taught about, but have never seen, and I had to think outside of the box and use all my veterinary knowledge to be able to treat her. Seeing her being able to go back home to her family was one of my happiest moments.
Default avatar
Julie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Rewarding experience..

This is a hands-on experience giving the opportunity to interact with a variety of animals both wild and domestic.Those who have, or who are learning, vet skills, will find this program particularly rewarding but any dedicated animal lover will feel needed and useful in the day to day care of all the different Twala residents...Twala is also about community involvement and education ...You get the chance to participate in this and you can see the very real impact Twala makes on their local community with the chance to participate and meet the children and their pets to whom Twala makes such a difference..
Here you will learn about Zimbabwe and the unique challenges facing those who live there.. You will feel part of something much bigger than yourself ..You will feel like family....

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I would take more games or crafts to interact more with the children ...

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose Twala because, when I compared different programs, I could see that this was a small, personal program with an upper limit of 6 volunteers. In particular what stood out for me was that I would have daily, hands on experience with the animals. For me this was without doubt the most important aspect of the program.

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

The program coordinator was the most amazing woman called Tracey who took the time to patiently answer all my questions - even those completely unrelated to the volunteer program (e.g. how to get to Vic Falls after my time at Twala). They organized airport pick-up, advised how much money to bring, provided comprehensive packing lists. She was exceptional in her help. I just had to get myself to Harare airport and they managed everything else.

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

You will want to spend more time here than you anticipate. Every volunteer I spoke to regretted not booking more time. Personally, I booked for a month and was somewhat apprehensive it might be too long - I finally left after 2.5 months! Give yourself two weeks - at the very least and be prepared for lots of tears when you eventually have to leave!

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

Volunteers start every morning at 6.30 am with preparing food for all the animals. It usually takes about 2 hrs to prep all the food and then distribute.

We then bring the birds outside to their day enclosures. We're usually greeted with loud 'HELLO' from the cockatoos! We then usually have an hour to have some breakfast before cleaning out some bird enclosures, treating the dogs for flystrike before the daily dog walk. Each day I promised myself that it would be a calming and meditative task but walking 17 dogs can never be that!

We usually then had lunch - always something delicious! After lunch, tasks varied and could include habitat enrichment, spending some extra time with the animals that really appreciated human contact, preparing for the weekly dog clinic (the clinic feeds and provides free vet care to approx. 300 dogs each week). There was then the afternoon food prep time, making sure every one of the 400 animals onsite were fed and happy before finishing up for the day.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest concern was around being in Zimbabwe itself and whether the political situation was secure since they had just had elections. However, on arriving there I found that Zimbabweans are a lovely and welcoming people. I must add that the care given to me by Twala staff when out and about meant I always felt extremely safe.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Dr. Vinay Ramlau

Job Title
Trustee and Resident Veterinarian
Dr. Vinay Ramluaul obtained a Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree at the University of Zimbabwe. He has been a small animal veterinarian for 25 years and is also the wildlife, large animal and domestic animal vet for the Twala Trust. He is the managing partner at the 24 Hour Vet Hospital in Harare. He is married to Twala's founding trustee, Sarah Carter, and is also a Twala trustee.
Dr Vinay Ramlau

What is your favorite travel memory?

My wife, Sarah, and I spent a month as crew on a yacht in the more remote areas of the Caribbean. On many evenings when we moored, we were the only people around. An incredible privilege and an unforgettable experience. We went with my partner in our veterinary practice and it was great to work as a team on something other than work.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Working with the rural community and their dogs has given me a real insight into the bond that exists between people in rural areas and their animals, and how important the animals are. That has given me a different perspective on the vet work we do. Working with wildlife, including big cats and exotic species rescued by Twala Trust, has been a learning curve and a privilege.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Many volunteers come to the Twala Trust as vet or pre-vet students. When they return having progressed in or completed their studies, that is very rewarding. We presently have a qualified vet nurse who first came to Twala as a teenager, with no idea of what she wanted to do. She now has a degree in veterinary nursing and is using her skills to help various animal rescue organizations as she travels around the world.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

The vet programme that we offer to pre-vet and vet students, and to anyone studying animal sciences is a fantastic way to get genuine hands-on experience in a unique environment.

We have so many different species at Twala, we do all our own vet work as well as running a free community vet clinic for animals from low-income rural households, and you won't find a more comprehensive and real experience anywhere else. The programme is small, a maximum of 6 volunteers at a time, so volunteers get to participate in a meaningful way in our work.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Our focus is on providing the best quality of life possible to an enormous variety of species. The attention to detail, the belief that every life matters and that it is always worth trying to save a life makes our work environment very positive. I am enormously proud of what we have achieved, against some pretty big odds, and that despite many challenges we have always maintained our ethics. Animal welfare is the most important factor in what we do.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Ethics are extremely important. What you see on social media about our work is what actually happens on the ground. We are responsible for the welfare of a great many animals and we take that very seriously. Working together as a team is vital, as is attention to detail in every aspect. We put the animals' welfare first, and it shows. We appreciate our staff, volunteers and supporters and that also show. We would not be able to do what we do without them.