I lived in Kenya when I was a child so Africa has always held a special place in my heart. The sunsets were spectacular, like nothing I’ve ever seen anywhere else in the world. They’re orange and pink, expansive, like a painting on velvet. I was only seven when I lived there but I made three lifelong friends—each of them uniquely bright, energized, curious, and kind. I fed giraffes and walked with elephants. I tended a carnivorous pitcher plant in my own backyard. Africa is magical. It’s full of incredible creatures, each more fascinating than the last—the stark stripes of the zebra, the proboscis of the anteater, the mischievous cunning of the spider monkey. And it’s full of incredible people, many of whom face unimaginable challenges and hardships. Organizations that serve Africa help to protect this magical place while they help to improve the lives of her people. If you have never been to Africa, go! It will change your life forever.
African Impact is a particularly interesting volunteer company on the continent. They’ve only been around since 2004 but they’ve seen enormous growth. Today they are the “largest on-the-ground facilitator and operator of responsible volunteer projects in Africa which all contribute towards sustainable goals.” They have worked with over 2000 volunteers so far, volunteers who have contributed 2,949,617 hours of service. Based in Cape Town South Africa, they have ongoing projects in 15 African countries. African Impact is dedicated to employing local staff, supporting the economy while they support local families and communities. They also focus on measurable results to make sure projects are progressing steadily and in the right direction. They were nominated as finalists for the 2009 World Travel Awards and were 2010 and 2011 winners of the Southern African Imvelo Responsible Tourism Awards.
African Impact volunteer opportunities are incredibly varied—from hands-on lion conservation volunteering on the banks of the Mighty Zambezi (near Victoria Falls) to medical orphanage and hospital volunteering in Kenya. One of the most unique volunteering experiences they offer is the opportunity to photograph African wildlife in the Thanda Private Game Reserve in South Africa. This is the perfect opportunity for novice and experienced wildlife photographers alike to contribute to conservation efforts. The photographs are used for educating the public and for monitoring populations. This project includes a 3-day intensive wildlife photography course to focus volunteers’ skills on the tasks at hand. (Note: when you’re not photographing wildlife, check out South Africa’s famous Zip 2000, a mile-long zip line!)