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Volunteer in Israel and see how you can make a difference! GoEco was created by experienced volunteers for people who are eager to travel and contribute to the community, wildlife and environment they visit. Join us in Israel for a wide variety of programs!
As someone who has been to many volunteer programs in Israel, I can honestly say they are all worth attending. From the Wildlife Center in the south to the Vegan Bakery in Tel Aviv, each program offers unique and immeasurable traveling experiences.
It's not often one has the opportunity to sink their teeth into Israeli culture using a completely different lens than that of a usual tourist. The work I accomplished, the people I met, and the places I visited made this experience hard to forget. If you're looking for a meaningful volunteer experience, GoEco will help you find the most suitable one for you as they did for me.
Exotic Animals, Desert Wilderness, Expert Rangers and Hospitality for Help
Apr 18, 2018
Volunteering in the strikingly homey desert wilderness, under a pacific supervision of well-fitting rangers, to cater for hygienic, dietary and safety well-being and convalescence of exotic and endangered animals, thereto reach far over to provide welcoming conditions for visitors so that they can peacefully mingle with locally typical, Bible-related species, and learn of their life cycle and threats of extinction. This is the CORE of your delightful input in the reserve of Hai Bar Yotvata and only a FRAME of your captivating experience.
Situated in the respectably CULTIVATED Arava borderline of the Negev DESERT, the animal reserve with its embedded residential area (incl. spacious volunteer bungalow), is encircled with picturesque range of mountains and a highway to Eilat, the longest Israeli road. Being a European with immoderate density of buildings and forests, I got astonished at the scenery, evocating both freedom and firmness at the same time. I fell in love instantly.
AFTER THE WORKSHIFT? SHIFT TO EXPLORATION
Topped with moderate climate of Israeli post-winter and pre-spring February stay, I felt fresh enough to EXPLORE the safe pathways to nearby kibbutzim of less than 20min of walking distance. Just be well equipped and let people know, for the health insurance was already your entry ticket anyway. Since you may volunteer in a group or most likely happen to be joining already active volunteers, eventual loneliness shall be nothing but your own choice. Let alone the MYRIAD of unique local trip opportunities, neighbouring rangers and fenced animal-run, sources of in-house fun from a guitar, books, board games, over YouTube channels on TV and Internet in general, to household or the porch, which appears to be the most favourite relax-zone. After all, peace and quiet is all you need after work sometimes.
WHAT IS, WHAT ISN’T ON DAILY MENU?
You are doomed to fall for mountainous valley, occasional acacias or palm kibutzes as they deliver an exciting scene, detached from dense civilization, yet close to Eilat. Wadi, caves and wilderness are just around the highway. Sun rises above the strap of nearby Jordanian mountain ridges. You are going to enjoy the daily pickup with a jeep, work side by side with experienced rangers and see how HANDY can be the shopping done once a week per your reserves, within generous budget for the whole board of the volunteer house. Everyone shall profit from healthy detachment from mass media, although still with fast wireless Internet access and telescreen. MODERN FACILITIES are deemed a ‘five star hotel’ amidst the desert and protected animals. WHAT’S INCLUDED? Housing, all energy supply, Internet, sufficient grocery stipend, gas for the jeep, eventual transfers should you need, liquids and bathrooms on workplace, working tools and first-hand expert explanations!!!
UNIQUE WORK CONDITIONS
Other than that, sand becomes a nostalgic article which the work leaves you with thereafter. All the year round, you will get a constant rangers’ care for organism hydratation. No worries about failing in the tasks - here the rangers see to the good work and so they actively partake in the alike physical work that we do and provide a constant unbiased supervision, not only to save the animals, but to protect the volunteers too. Stemming from situation, look forward to rare assignments of breathtaking character, with high responsibility and honour, for they require professional or emergent execution. Living next door to animals’ yard and continuously discovering diverse forms of reptiles and insects around entail the routine that many may find MISSING BACK HOME.
NEWIE-VOLUNTEERS, STRETCH YOUR EARS
Believe it or not, great diversity of local animals will occupy your mind on daily bases. Not only are you free to give a helping hand at weekends. Not only a beautiful grasshopper, a pert ant, an attractive lizard and other cute tiny beings may pay you a visit. Maybe that the rangers with their patient expert eye will help you see the WELL-CAMOUFLAGED WILDLIFE and international MIGRATING BIRDS, with which the very typical Hoopoe or fabulous Flamingos, for their PECULIAR story. Value added depicts the chance of being invited to extra tours within the regular inspections. So get ready, make sure your eye or photo lens are clean!
Appreciation is always the key to sustainable relationships rather than taking things for granted. Workplace is not a holiday resort. Rangers are there for the reserve, but for you too - SPEAK to them, NOTE them when you need to leave for the restroom, when you feel sick, if you are close to run out of food supply, if you plan to take a TRIP OUTSIDE (e.g. to Eilat with its Doplhine Reef, Underwater World, artistic downtown, its considerable airport and many cultural sites; to ancient Timna mining site and close canyon-like serpentines; to surrounding kibutzes; to a walking distance lookout point; a bus drive either to Dead Sea or Beer Sheva) and, of course, when you are not sure about UNDERSTANDING the instructions.
Do not be afraid to ask as they, too, appreciate openness, trust, cooperation, interaction, initiative, relevant questions (and compliments as everyone), for it enhances work experience and MOTIVATION on both sides. Load the phone numbers of recommended rangers onto your mobile CONTACT LIST.
Should you decide to apply through GoEco, remember that there is a person you can always turned to as well; plus they will see to it that you adapt yourself comfortably and introduce you to peculiarities of wonderful Jerusalem in the company of a friendly knowledgeable guide.
YOU ARE GOING TO SURVIVE WITH SMILE, BUT STILL
Wear heal-and-toe closed shoes, best possibly protecting your ankles too. Keep your head covered, as you are exposed to sun. Sunglasses may well protect your eyes from sand in eventual wind and sandstorm. Sunscreen may come handy even in winter months. Basically take all RECEIVED ADVICE before departure and meanwhile the stay into account, for the reserve has a lot to deal with inside and the wilderness around to take on another issue. Don’t underestimate local conditions in the first place as there might not be a vehicle available to take you to hospital WHEN IT IS TOO LATE or to do the shopping when you are already out of all the supply. Remember that running the reserve does not comprise mere ‘Good morning’ to animals, let alone they are not the only ‘beings’ there - an essential part features an embedded campsite, lodging huts and safari. Besides, also the cared-for wild fauna consists of both herbivores, as well as CARNIVORES (predators). Hence do not expect the hyena, leopard, wolfs, jackals, wild cats, caracals, vultures, eagles etc. to feed on SOYA MEAT.
Grateful for each second and for the natural ‘embarkment’ on board of rangers’ brotherhood, I felt and do feel like showing my APPRECIATION here and there. The last night I went through nostalgic break-down as I realized the strong bonds with the fun, talented, intelligent, proud, respectful and hospitable people, as well as with Hai Bar wrapped in charming mountains and peculiar animals’ sounds (how was I supposed to DISACCUSTOM MYSELF from ostrich wooing, donkey heehaws and rangers’ quizzical comments). I have remained surprised how FRIENDLY the DESERT SETTINGS can be, how ‘at-home’ I felt the whole month, what a HEALTHY RESTORATION it was from stressful daily life, from the ‘omnipresent’ business surrounding, traffic and construction noise, from the air pollution and cases of ill-treatment or indifference to animals back home.
Like others, I REDISCOVERED my self-reliance and REINFORCED active listening. I should say that I SHALL COME AGAIN! For many international people I talked to, it is still a relatively UNIQUE RESCUE AND RECOVERY PROGRAM in Israel. Nor is the Internet explicitly ‘flooded’ with rich information on this distinct natural legacy and reservists’ endeavour after its nature SUSTAINABILITY in CONSTANT FIGHTS with the municipal, business and ministry deputies, searching for compromise with desired growth of infrastructure and income.
CHECK IT OUT!
What would you improve about this program?
A good word on experienced reality derives progress. Every volunteer already has the chance to express openly and leave a feedback. I personally learned on the place how the housing conditions, communication reserves and volunteers' imprudence have developed since program's first striving years.
It needs to get promoted in large, emphasizing that people with particular insight, interests, thinking green, enthusiasm and creative ideas may bring not only sustainability of the program, but its gradual development for good.
When I first decided I wanted to volunteer, I searched so many websites and eventually I came by GoEco’s website. I read so many positive experiences, I thought to myself, this has to be something that I do! I have never really liked Christmas in the UK, so I thought Israel would be the perfect place to go, as Christmas isn’t really celebrated. I made the most PERFECT decision. I then decided which project I wanted to do, working with animals was at the top of my list. So, without any hesitation I confirmed my place on the website. I had all of the details within a week, the office in Israel are so quick at replying, and really look after every volunteer who books through them.
The time came, the flights were super cheap. I paid around £120 return from London with EasyJet to Tel Aviv. Day 1 of the 3 weeks experience was just the start of what was to come, it was awesome. We met Yan, a Coordinator for GoEco, and he took us around Jerusalem for the day. I felt that it was important to spend the day doing this, as we learnt so much about the country, the culture, and also told what the next few weeks would entail.
The next day, Yan took us to the bus station and we got on the 4 hour bus journey to the desert. We got off at the bus stop and one of the rangers picked us up. My first impressions were exactly how I expected, in the middle of no where, perfect. We were taken to the volunteers house, which is just so lovely. 2 bedrooms, a nice bathroom, a HUGE living room with a smart TV and a computer, a well equipped kitchen, and a washing machine outside. There’s also a fire outside which was great at night time. The volunteers house is in between two of the rangers houses, so there was always someone around, and they are very sociable. It’s also at the very end of the safari, so the Ostriches are literally a stones throw away, you can hear them making their calls in the night quite clearly. Night fell on the first evening there, I remember walking outside and looking up at the sky and being speechless. When you live in a big city like London, its not very often that you see stars, let alone shooting stars and the line of the Milkyway! It’s breath taking. After star gazing was over, we lit a fire, and sat under the stars for the rest of the evening and got to know each other.
6am wake up…. For a 7am start. That was a bit of a shock to the system, I’m usually quite lazy in the morning! A ranger picked us up in a truck, and we rode through the safari to the office to start our first day of work. We met all of the rangers, who each are so individual, lovely and unique its hard to explain, but you will see for yourself when you book this experience. Quickly we learnt what we were to do for the next few weeks! Basically, every morning we would prepare food to feed the animals in the rehabilitation centre. We would first clean the toilets that the public use (they visit the safari only), this was one of my favourite jobs, which I’m sure the rangers appreciated. Then we would go into each cage, apart from a few dangerous animals only professionals can enter, such as leopards, the wolf, and the hyena. We would clean the floor, change the water, and give them food. Some animals are fed at night time, so if you stay for a few more hours each day, you get to do this too. I found I got more out of the project by working 7am until 4pm every day rather than the 7-2pm which is required. I LOVE the animals there. On the reserve there are White Oryx, Ostrich, Addex, and two types of donkey. And in the rehabilitation centre there are wild cats, caracal, a wolf, tortoises, a hyena, parrots, owls, raptures, leopards, jackal (love them), and many others. Other duties included, preparing new enclosures, counting the Gazelle, measuring trees, painting, and feeding the safari animals. One day I got to spend the whole day with the vet and learn about his job, and another day I made toys for the cats. Every day was different!
Work would be Sunday to Thursday and the rest of the time was free time to do whatever you like. You have to bear in mind that the nearest bus stop is a 40 minute walk, but the trick is to just makes friends with the rangers and they will take you where you need to go (and it’s always nice to bring them back something sweet in return!). On my first weekend, I decided to take a trip to Jordan through a local tour company in Eilat. It cost in total around $500, which included everything! Including Visas. I was so glad I did it. I spent 2 days in Petra and 1 in Wadi Rum. I also took a day off from the reserve which they were totally fine with. Waking up in Wadi Rum on Christmas morning was a totally unique experience.
The second weekend was quite chilled out. Me and one of the other girls went to Eilat, we went to the camel ranch, lay on the beach, went out for New Years Eve, and we also visited the Coral Reef which also has volunteers and we made some new friends there as we snorkelled in the Red Sea! We also swam with wild dolphins, which really made me want to learn to dive, which I did the next weekend!
At night times we would sit around the fire, cook food on the fire or in the oven, watch music videos, or generally just talk! One thing that’s changed me since doing this experience is that I now don’t feel like I need much. I’m less materialistic than I was before. I think being in an environment in the middle of nowhere does that to you, it makes you appreciate what you have, and it also allows you to listen to other people more. The rangers were so lovely, I cooked a BBQ for them on my last day as a thank you. The girls I was volunteering with were great, we had such a good time, and if I could rewind and do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing, it was perfect. I made some amazing friends, people that I will keep in touch with forever. I don’t even feel that this blog explains just how amazing this experience was, and I could probably stand up for a few hours and talk about it! I loved Israel that much I stayed in the country for an extra 2 weeks, and explored from the south all the way up the Golan Heights.
In general, I feel a much better person, and I’ve learnt a real value in life (I also now get up a lot earlier in the mornings!) It’s the best thing I’ve done with my life and I have a totally different perspective now! I can’t wait to go back.
From the minute I arrived at the Abraham Hostel any fear I had disappeared. I arrived at 01.30 in the morning and the lady was so helpful and all my bookings were correct as I had changed details a few times. Next morning our GoEco team leader was great and took care of us, Because of the recent troubles, instead of having to make our own way to the projects he took us all personally. The orientation day was great and we had time to get to know others in the group and was very informative and interesting. The team leader was available all the time and sorted out any problems, always with a smile.
During my time on the social food programme I learnt a lot about myself and was challenged about a lot of my thinking on certain issues.
The team straight away made me feel accepted and valued. I thought I was going to give of my time and help but received so much back.
It was humbling when we delivered the food parcels to the older people and wonderful to see how the gentleman from the programme interacted with the them. Each person was so lovely and I received lots of hugs.
Something happened that was very personal, may not seem much to others but it was a special moment for me.
A party was held by the institute for the older people and we were invited to go. There was a poet and a man who sang and played the keyboard. I noticed in the audience 2 ladies, when they saw each other from across the room they waved and made there way to each other. They hugged each other and held each others hands and chatted and laughed. It was nice to watch especially for me as my own mother died earlier in the year and these 2 ladies just looked like my mum and her best friend, the way they greeted each other and looked in their appearance. It made me smile and tearful at the same time. I phoned my mums friend's daughter and told her straight away.
I made friends with 2 other girls, one I shared a room with and one who was on the same project. We became very close and are meeting up in Germany in January.
From start to finish it was a great experience.
I was able to volunteer at the refugee health clinic in Tel Aviv. The clinic staff was so welcoming when I first arrived, and I learned so much in my short time there. It has benefited my career in the health field. I was able to learn and shadow doctors, while also learning how to communicate with other cultures. This was a chance in a lifetime that I will be forever grateful for!
What would you improve about this program?
This program could be improved by giving more information about the clinic and what the person is doing during orientation.
This program was truly amazing. Not only because I worked with animals, but also because of the amazing landscape I lived in, the beauty of the desert, but also the atmosphere... I met a lot of people from all around the world and so different culture (Americans, Europeens, Asians..) and I met Israel through the people who worked in the reserve. I think the best way to really know a country is to meet the population. This experience really changed me.
What would you improve about this program?
I just didn't really understood what the 500 dollars were for (the accomodation was free as we volunteered, we paid for food, the tour in Jerusalem was free...)
As a tourist, you have chance to see nice places. What about the real life Israeli lead? This program helped me with that.
I learned about it. And I saw a different aspect of it, while working. And I simply loved my work! The contact with those kids, their comments on life, the eventually nice song that played every single day and became boring, boring! It was just fun, top to bottom.
The person in charge, Doron, is probably the most gentle person in Israel. And the project manager is very witty and funny. I love intelligent people.
The work is light, really light. Except for the long hours standing. But because I wanted to. I could sit down. But I didn't want to waste time. I wanted to work. So many vases to prepare, to plant the 'starters,' to clean dead leaves and parts. Just that. Not much thinking required.
It's indeed a very nice program. Light work, nice people, wonderful environment, because of the contact with nature.
And the representative of Go Eco who assisted us - and me, specifically, one day - was a wonderful person.
Honestly, I thank you, guys. I didn't have expectations. I wanted to learn about whatever lied ahead. And it was a fantastic experience.
What would you improve about this program?
A little more orientation on accomodations. I didn't want the indicated hostel. And the other place was not satisfactory, not because of the place itself, but because of one guest who uses to stay there for long periods, every year, and now thinks she owns the place. And she's very rude.
This meant to me that I had to change accomodations - and was relocated to a place very far from my place of work. It would take me an hour by bus, sometimes, to get there.
I think that, for a foreigner, who doesn't know the city, GoEco should help more in this aspect.
I worked on the natural reserve of Hai Bar on the Negev desert on the south of Israel.
We worked on the morning with the animals ( feeding, cleaning cages...) and on the afternoon we did differents things like cleaning the camping area, odd jobs and feeding the predators on the evening.
It was really an amazing experience to work with wild animals and with lovely and passionates people.
Israel is revered for its religious diversity and unique scenery. Spend your days reaping the benefits of soaking in the Dead sea or explore the 3 faiths that have a special connection to Israel: Judaism, Christianity & Islam.
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