Eight Voluntourism Projects With Silly Species – A Traveler’s Guide to Volunteering With Animals

You’re going to do what on your vacation? Work? With..?

Voluntourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry. Combined with the basic nature of people who possess altruist tendencies, it is not surprising that wildlife, animal rescue and conservation projects are also becoming increasingly popular. Few voluntary spirits would not be moved when looking into the eyes of a young chimpanzee or could not become exhilarated by the idea of helping dolphins in the wild. They are, after all, awe-inspiring. Still, there is another side to volunteering with animals – the silly side.

Beyond the awe-stuck factor, beyond the creatures of fame and popularity, there are ‘lesser’ creatures, animals needing your help just as much as the ‘glam’ species – animals that, well, despite their best intentions make people giggle. Let’s face it, some critters are just funny. There is nothing wrong with that. Be it their appearance, their habits or just their name, certain animals bring out a sense of fun or whimsy in the more childish parts of human hearts.

There is more to being an adventure traveler than wandering aimlessly off the beaten path and embalming one’s self with the local hooch or jumping off of a perfectly good bridge with a rubber band strapped to your ankles. Volunteering with animals can take you to places you never imagined. Better still, you go to these places with a purpose. Aiding in the lives of animals gives you a reason to immerse into a culture alongside like-minded people or to head deep into the wildest parts of a country.

Beyond true adventure, altruism, learning and purpose (as if that were not enough), there is also laughter to be had while helping animals. So before you wash up on yet another beach with no real direction, consider these lovable creatures and worthy projects that could use your voluntary hands.

1) Wombats

Yes you can! You ‘can’ volunteer in a Womatorium that is. Who else, but the Australians would bring us such an opportunity?

Organization: Wombat Protection Society
Location: Quaama, NSW, Australia
Cost: None
Duration: Open
Overview: A wide range of volunteer skills can be used to help protect these amazing, yet comical, creatures. From administrative work – including publicity and fundraising, to field research and monitoring or working at release sites. This may involve building wombatoriums, fencing, research assistance, burrow monitoring, wombat sighting and some direct care.

2) Sloths

Finally a project for every volunteer who has ever had a dog or bird escape straight passed them at 80 MPH when the volunteer entered an enclosure. No worries about that here. Need I say more?

Organization: Sloth Sanctuary of Cost Rica
Location: Aviarios, Costa Rica
Cost: $30 per day full board
Duration: Open
Overview: A dedicated staff of full-time employees cares for the animals, but volunteers are needed to help provide injured and rescued sloths with the extra loving care they require in order to both survive and thrive. The sanctuary also has a special need for those experienced in veterinary/pet care, biology, information technology, marketing, landscaping, graphic design, grant writing, fund-raising and cooking – for the boss!

3) Tasmanian Devils

Seriously, is anyone really surprised to see that those lovable Aussies and their continent full of fabulously bizarre species have more than on opportunity to work with silly animals?

Organization: Save the Tasmanian Devil
Location: Tasmania, Australia
Cost: None
Duration: Two weeks
Overview: Devilish volunteers are involved in field monitoring and wild management of Tasmanian devils (see Taz on Looney Tunes), helping with trapping at various sites across Tasmania. While team leaders trap and release Tasmanian devils, volunteers assist with scrubbing and cleaning traps and scribing. You will four-wheel-drive into breathtakingly beautiful places that very few people get to see and help an amazing endangered animal that is full of personality.

4) Lammas and Vicuña

Be a Llama Momma (it had to be said)! Enjoy the rush of the Andes scenery and high altitude conservation with not one, but two unusual animals.

Organization: A Pas de Loup
Location: Southern province of Arequipa, Peru
Cost: $8 per day for meals
Duration: 1+ month
Overview: Volunteer need to speak Spanish. The mission is part of a contracted partnership between three structures: A Pas de Loup, the Ministry of the Environment and the Peruvian National Reserve Salinas y Aguada Blanca. The on-site team consisting of a director, 16 guards and 34 volunteers, is responsible for overseeing a reserve, the establishment of scientific research and advocacy with the local population.

5) Chinchillas

They’re fuzzy! They’re fun! They’re Fabulous! And, they are in need of your help!

Organization: Save the Wild Chinchillas
Location: Illapel, Chile
Cost: None, just pay own expenses for food.
Duration: Open
Overview: Very rustic accommodations are available. A typical day starts early and work may continue until it is too cold or the morning sun peaks through. This is a very ‘wild’ and rustic project needing volunteers who can hold their own and laugh at themselves in the great outdoors. Every day is different and you see a lot of Chile’s wildlife. Read the PDF information on their website to get a real feel for this project and the happy, hardy spirits they need.

6) Lemurs

When nothing but some monkeying around on vacation will do, you can still experience the wonders of Madagascar – The Land of Misfit Primates.

Organization: Location: Beautiful lakeside camp of Lanirano in Fort Dauphin, Madagascar
Cost: From $2,600 for 4 weeks
Duration: 4 or 8 weeks
Overview: Volunteers work on an extensive range of projects from the collection of data on endangered lemur species to environmental education with local communities and tree planting for reforestation purposes. During this time you will get close to the three main species of diurnal lemur you are likely to encounter in the bush – Verreaux’s sifaka, Ring-tailed lemurs and Brown lemurs.

7) Meerkats

There is a reason meerkats have their own television series and land mo
re parts in movies than your average large-breasted starlet. See why for yourself.

Organization: Earthwatch Institute
Location: Upington, South Africa
Cost: $3,750 – $3,950+
Duration: 14 days
Overview: Help observe six habituated colonies of meerkats in South Africa’s Kuruman River Reserve. You’ll learn how to radio-track, conduct focal sampling, use a Global Positioning System and weigh meerkats. The data you collect will help researchers evaluate how cooperative breeding affects the survival of both pups and helpers.

8) Penguins

This one’s for the birds (again, it had to be said)! Some travelers just have to be around marine environments, so if you have salt water in your veins (and a tuxedo under your swimsuit) here is the project for you.

Organization: Greenforce
Location: South Africa
Cost: $2,600
Duration: 6 weeks
Overview: Volunteers learn how to catch, handle, feed, tube and administer medication to a variety of seabirds, as well as assisting in the intensive care unit. Past volunteers have sailed to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned) to release penguins into one of the world’s largest penguin colonies.

Volunteer travel is truly addictive. Think of each project as a potato chip, every chip is a little different and you can’t have just one. Spice things up with a little humor and you will only add to the experience. So, the next time someone wants to know what you’re doing on your vacation, hold your head up high, tell them you have a hot date with a southern hairy-nosed wombat and make a beeline for the airport. Do it with pride and a smile.

A Medieval Story for Valentine’s Day, Bonne & Charles

The general word on the Internet is the first Valentine card was sent in 1415. It’s not accurate and it’s not true. The particular Valentine was written in mid-February of 1416; it was on vellum, not card stock; it’s not the first Valentine card; and no one knows if it was sent.

Charles, Duke of Orleans, who was in London, England, wrote the Valentine that all of the Internet declares, and that fact is true. He had a wife, Bonne, who was in Paris, France or somewhere in France. If it was sent to her, it traveled a far distance on foot and on horseback and on ship. Pagan Valentine’s Day had been celebrated in Western Europe for centuries, and romantic, oftimes coded erotic, messages, had been exchanged for about 100 years by then between educated men and women who ran in the same crowd and lived in close proximity. So much for general information on the Internet…More specific information was found on special websites dealing with Medieval times.

Here’s what I found:

It is possible that Charles was lonesome for Bonne, while he was in London. He had just been captured (on October 25, 1415 specifically) by the English on French soil and was being held prisoner in London or in the London countryside. Charles was one of the lucky ones. Just about every other French aristocrat was killed in the Battle of Agincourt during the 100 Year War between the English and the French for land in France dowered to Eleanor of Aquitaine (former Queen of France) when she married Henry II, the English King. Charles and Bonne hadn’t been married long, about 5 years by 1415. He had been soldiering a lot during those five years, so they didn’t see much of each other. A 100 Year War preoccupies a lot of generations of men folk.

There are three curious things, though, about these two you should know: (1) It was an arranged marriage whose purpose was to avoid further bloodshed between their families; (2) Bonne was 11 when she was engaged to Charles, who was 16; and (3) his father-in-law, Bonne’s father, had assassinated Charles’ father, Louis.

Maybe they loved each other; maybe not. I don’t even know if they ever lived together as man and wife, for she was only 11 when they married, 16 at the time he wrote the verse. In any event, Charles penned a poem on Valentine’s Day in 1416 and it has been retained for almost 600 years.
You may not know that a Duke is a Prince, and noble, highborn prisoners were prized when captured in battle. They were ‘cash cows,’ held for ransom by the opposition, until their families could raise and pay the money for their release. At that time, although most men folk fought for the French King, France wasn’t exactly a country, then, and the King didn’t assume any responsibility for ransoming his patriotic nobles or aristocrats. (No one cared much for non-nobles or non-aristocrats, except their families. But, they were never captured and held for ransom. More often than not, they were killed. They’re the enormous body counts in battles of old, the serfs and servants.) This ransom was up to the noble or aristocratic prisoner’s family, if they wanted their relative back home. (And they did want their men folk back.) His ransom in today’s money could be as much as $500,000 ($US). The actual amount in Medieval English crowns was 150,000 crowns. This sounds like an enormous sum. What with the French losing the war, their King’s reoccurring madness, Joan of Arc’s triumph, then ignominy, a subsequent economic depression, the Black Plague, and Charles’ family having to pay his upkeep all those years, (plus lots of other things) it took his family 25 years to get the money and treaty agreement together to turn him over.

Bonne died while Charles was held prisoner in England, and they had no children. (She falls from the written record because she did not produce progeny, and no one knows exactly when she died or where she was when she died. Actually, no one is exactly sure where she was living and with whom while she was married to her incarcerated husband, Charles. It’s probable she was transferred to Charles’ family estate at the time of the betrothal and raised by Charles’ family until the wedding, remaining there until she died. There’s one more tidbit about poor Bonne, and that is this: Bonne may not have been her name. It’s really an adjective in Old French, and merely means “good girl.”)

A manuscript of the poem is in the British Library. I don’t know if it’s the original. It’s named by the scribe, Harley, in the archive, and scribes’ copies were often rewritten and rewritten and passed around for years and years amongst wealthy families. If it is the original, it was not unusual for scribes to assist in Valentines, for they made a living writing fancy script and making pretty pictures. (Apparently, Charles’ family sent him enough money to pay the scribe, so he didn’t live too badly while he was held prisoner.) How the manuscript got to the British Library after 600 years was by bequest, but I was unable to check out the provenance. The BL was willing to describe the manuscript: There’s a Cupid image and a 3-part verse. The verse is in Old French, not English. There is no version of the poem on the Internet.

I was able to find a description by A.E.B. Coldiron, who says it’s an appeal to Cupid with Charles as a servant of Cupid (Lust imagery, I think.) but no one is named and there is no heading. Charles says he admires this person (Bonne?) and despairs of seeing her again. He is frustrated (which is what all noble men were required to express in Chivalric code), but Coldiron doesn’t say what he’s frustrated about. He promises to be faithful and praises her beauty, virtue, and honor. He may describe intimate moments they’ve shared, a custom in Valentines, but I suspect not. She was simply too young to have been expected to cohabit with her groom and when she was old enough to cohabit, he was away fighting battles, then captured.

A non-academic source has published the following verse on a website, http://www.homespunpeddler.com and has attributed this verse to Charles in a collection called “Romantic Valentines.” It doesn’t read anything like Coldiron’s description, so I doubt if it’s the one he wrote to Bonne. I offer it to you, so you know what a translated from Medieval French into modern English 15th century Valentine would read like.

“Wilt thou be mine? dear Love, reply

— Sweetly consent or else deny.
Whisper softly, none shall know,
Wilt thou be mine, Love?

— aye or no?
Spite of Fortune,
we may be Happy by one word from thee.
Life flies swiftly —
ere it go Wilt thou be mine, Love?

— aye or no?”

Frankly, the above verse is not that terrific, is it? I would call it doggerel. Maybe something is lost in the translation. If not, I think he could have done better. He had a lot of time on his hands.

I’d like to believe that Charles and Bonne did love each other, but don’t know for certain. (The glimmer of hope I entertain that Charles loved Bonne is an anecdote about him reading a love poem he composed to her at their wedding ceremony. Some scholars believe he was showing off his poem prowess, but some scholars are without a scrap of romance in their souls.) Things were different six hundred years ago: love and marriage didn’t intersect amongst nobility and aristocrats. Children were pawns and shuffled around to do smart things for their families. Duty to family superceded love and children dutifully married other children. Romance was in the chivalrous code, hence, unrequited. Sexual congress was for procreation, a duty, and family lineage promulgation was its purpose. Lust was with wrenches, when they could be found. If Bonne and Charles loved each other, it’s a sad story of 2 children from good families. If they didn’t love each other, it’s a jailhouse reverie of a young man who burns. I don’t want to leave you on either note. So, I’ll go for this: go get some vellum (stretched goat skin), pen a personal message of your feelings to your love, make it pretty and fancy all over, and hand it to your love. Maybe your message will be memorialized until 2605, when someone like me comes around to figure what happened then.

Provocative Right Brain Branding Maneuver For The Everyday Scribe

Comfort Zone – What Energy There Is In The Unknown, The Just Out Of Reach

Are you ready to stop retreating, reload, and ream regret out of your life for good? How would your outlook change if you were to rally for the rewards of your future rather than reminisce over mistakes and missed opportunities of your past? What if you could impel yourself through the fear that’s been holding you back from the writer you want to be?

Here are some ideas to ignite you onto the outskirts of your comfort zone and beyond, where life is richer, more daring, challenging, and fulfilling everyday.

Don’t surrender to the feeling of fear. Living outside your comfort zone lends fuel to the fluidity of your future and annihilates the paralyzing effect of regret.

Fear is a temporary affliction that can be healed each time you live on the edge and beyond of your comfort zone.

Regret is a long-term condition that festers and spreads throughout your business, personal, and mental existence.

So how do you break the vicious cycle of fear and regret? One of the quickest ways is to use a maneuver I call fast-forward thinking, which will help you learn to love living outside of your comfort zone!

The next way is to transfer your burning desire tasks, those that could have the most impact on your writing career, from the can’t do impossible section of the brain into the larger space of anything’s possible.

Maneuver 1- Leave Your Safe Life Behind And Focus On The Infinite Space Of Possibility

1 – Get your pen and paper and draw a picture of a brain. Doesn’t have to be perfect. This isn’t art class. Just an outline sketch will do but large enough to draw and write inside of it. Press pause if you need to. I’ll be right here waiting for you.

2 – Next draw a circle that encompasses approximately one third of the inside of your brain.

The circle represents your comfort zone or where you feel safe. This is where all the things you think are impossible or too hard gather and collect procrastination particles. This circle may be bigger or smaller depending on how far you’ve advanced in the comfort zone war.

The open space is possibility. It’s where the vibrant energy called the unknown pulsates. That just out of reach space where your electrifying life begins.

3 – Make a list inside the circle of three to five items that once conquered would give you spine-tingling, toe-curling writing success. Choose the one that frightens you the most.

Maybe it’s as simple as committing words to paper to form the first tantalizing paragraph. Perhaps penning your first blog post has you stumbling in the proverbial writer’s block zone. Want to travel to another country for a writers’ conference but you’ve yet to fly anywhere? Or, you’ve heard that incorporating video into your marketing mix would reap mad rewards but the thought of being on camera sends you shivering onto the sidelines. Writing is the practice of asserting yourself. It gives you an excuse to lose control and be anything you want to be. Bigger challenges mean bigger rewards so don’t hold back!

Unless your conquer comfort zone circle includes skydiving, mountain climbing, or tracking wild animals in Africa, bodily harm or death is not an issue so you can survive the imagined worst case scenario, which usually doesn’t happen. The more you must reach and stretch to accomplish an endeavor, the more rewarding it will feel.

Now, I’m going to ask you to leave your safe life behind…

4 – Imagine moving that task out of the safety of the circle and into the infinite space of the possible. What color does it become? Does it light up? Flash? Fast-forward past the terror to the triumph. The minute after, the hour after, the next day after you’ve tackled that fear that’s been holding you back. Bask in the afterglow, the fulfillment. How does it feel to have accomplished something you never thought you could do? Is it so ooh la la delicious that you want to experience it over and over again?

You have to get your mind on board before your physical being can jump on and cooperate. My latest comfort zone challenge was being on camera for over an hour doing my own live webTV show plus all the videos to promote it. If I had tried to put my body in front of the camera without mentally preparing, my brain would have said what do you think you’re doing. We don’t do face time with cameras. We work on the other side of the viewfinder. Are you crazy? This is way out of our comfort zone. We’ve never done this before. What makes you think we can do it now? How successful do you think I’d have been if I didn’t move ‘star on camera’ out of the small impossible circle of safety and into the mammoth vacuum of space called the possible that exists in all of your brains?

5 – Once you have your list, have chosen the first obstacle to overcome, and you’ve crafted the mental movie to play continuously throughout the process, you need to do the physical homework of planning, preparing, pulling a team together… whatever your venture requires. Your visualization keeps you going and sends the right vibes out into the universe so every player is operating out of the same rulebook. Involving others lends this a reality and accountability so you can’t back down!

You give attention to that one circle. So when it says you can’t make money writing, that you’re not good at something, you are going to fail, you’re a fool for picking up a pen, you listen to it and get stuck there. There’s inspiration to be found from all directions. From the all-knowing Google directory of experts, to your pals down the street, and many consultants in between. But ultimately you, under the direction of your own self-motivation, are the only one that can halt what’s holding you back. Don’t dwell in the comfort zone circumference. Take one giant leap out of it and swim dedicated laps in the space where fantasy and opportunity flourish. Dare to desire, dream, and drive away from your safe life.