Zimbabwe is an enchanting and cultural destination located in Southern Africa between two rivers, with Victoria Falls at the border. You can expect friendly locals and spectacular coastlines. Zimbabwe offers the opportunity to learn and give back at the same time. If you want to work outdoors with animals, in a research lab, or with children -- Zimbabwe has plenty of options for you!Photo Credits: Sara&Joachim.
Wildlife Conservation: You can make a difference in conserving and protecting the beautiful endangered giants of Africa. Over 70% of Zimbabwe’s wildlife has been lost in past decade. Conservation volunteer programs are essential in helping to protect and conserve some of the planet’s most endangered species. Commonly known as the “Big 5” – buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhinos – also including giraffes, zebras, and antelopes, are found on private ranches or public national parks. Zimbabwe would be the perfect place to gain experience in wildlife conservation.
Healthcare: Volunteers who are seeking experience in healthcare and medicine are greatly needed in Zimbabwe. Typically, they have a good public health record but since the influx of HIV/AIDS cases in the 90s and the economic crisis in 2000, the system has declined. Local clinics and midwifery’s could use your skills! There are several options whether you work inside the lab doing biological research or hands on in the field. The healthcare field is a good one to get involved in.
Education/Youth Development: Zimbabwe has high literacy rates but the teachers in Zimbabwe lack the resources and support they really need. Volunteers are able to work in classrooms, assist teachers, or spend time with children in orphanages.
Know Before You Go
Here are a few tips to help you fit in with locals as a volunteer in Zimbabwe...Always tip locals, as their livelihoods depend on it. Don’t discuss politics and other controversial topics with Zimbabweans as they can be sensitive to your perceptions of their homeland. Although English is an official language of Zimbabwe, locals will appreciate your efforts to learn and understand their culture and language. Practice some common phrases in Shona, the most common local language, before your trip.
When and where to go?
The best place to spend your time volunteering depends on what you’re looking for. Southern Zimbabwe has a lot to offer in terms of wildlife and nature. Northern Zimbabwe is more industrialized and is the source of the nation’s mineral wealth. Therefore, most volunteer projects take place in the southern parts of Zimbabwe. Lake Kariba and the Lower Zambezi are a bit of an exception though - located in the northern tip of the country, is a popular destination for locals and offer a variety of national parks. Some tourist hot spots to check out in your free time include: Victoria Falls, the Great Zimbabwe ruins, Mana Pools National Park, and the capital city Harare.
Health and Safety of Volunteers in Zimbabwe
Security risk for travelers to Zimbabwe has been relatively low since 2009. However, officials expect unpredictable political unrest because of the controversial 2013 elections. This is a great example of how every visiting volunteer should be knowledgeable about the country's current political, economic, and security situations. In most cases, political unrest won't directly affect foreign volunteers but you should always be cautious and aware of your surroundings.There are several diseases/illnesses you should be aware of when heading into another country and this is the same for Zimbabwe. Just make sure you have all of your immunizations up-to-date so you can stay clear of ones such as: malaria, cholera, and HIV/AIDs are prevalent in much of Zimbabwe.
Contributed by Kalee Fambrough