The 2008 Global Vision International (GVI) volunteers spent their last days at Letaba at the end of January in preparation for their duties in the year ahead. Each year GVI places volunteers for six months or one year at some of South Africa's national parks where required.
From all walks of life and from all over the world, these volunteers offer their skills and expertise to Sanparks' People and Conservation departments at one of the parks. Here, according to the GVI website, they help to implement new policies and programmes developed by Sanparks to integrate local communities into the conservation of the natural and cultural heritage sites within the parks.
Before placement at the various parks, interns spend two weeks in the Kruger National Park (KNP) where they are trained in various aspects of environmental interpretation, education and a background into Sanparks. Also included in the training are identification techniques first aid course.
This year, six volunteers from as far as Autralia, the Unites States of America, England and Holland have joined the Sanparks family. Dan Kanner (34) from San Francisco in the US, quit his job as a financial software consultant after 11 years. Dan is no stranger to travel and has been to most continents.
Shortly before his arrival he had spent three months on a biodiversity survey in Madagascar. He is looking forward, even if 'I can only reach a few people, it would be great.' He is keen to share his experience at Bontebok National Park where he will be for the next month and says he was also 'pleasantly surprised with the variety in the environment and culture that I found in South Africa.'
Laura Dalton (22), a young Zoology graduate from Cambridge in England, joined GVI as she wanted to learn more about social ecology. She would like to gain an international picture of conservation and this is a good start. This is not her first visit to South Africa. She did a volunteer course with GVI at Karongwe before and 'it was amazing'. You will find Laura at Tsitsikamma's People and Conservation section. Susie van Baarsel (23) from Holland graduated at York in the UK.
She worked at the the Ugoslavia Tribunal for four months before joining GVI, a distressing experience at first. She has been to South Africa before, visiting her uncle in Cape Town. She would like to pursue a career in conservation biology, 'somewhere where there are mountains.' She will be placed at Wilderness for the next six months.
Melissa Pepper (25) is an environmental management and environmental engineer graduate from the Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. She enjoyed a GVI expedition to Kenya las year and 'absolutely loved it'. She travelled East Africa – Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda and thought she would try South Africa.
'The Kgalagadi (where she will be for the next 12 months) will be a challenge, but I love the outdoors.' Patrick Kilday (23) from Victoria in Australia knows what he wants from life and the next few months at Golden Gate will strengthen his resume and chances to get a job in Australia's department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
With a double degree and majors in economics and outdoor recreation, Patrick believes the experience at Sanparks will prove invaluable when he returns home. Maria le Mahieu (39), from Holland graduated in anthropology, but never had the opportunity to practice her passion.
After working 11 years for an international Japanese trading company, based in London and Holland, she finally quit her job to travel. She completed a post-graduate course in responsible tourism and hopes to find something 'in that line' when she finishes her time at Augrabies National Park. Since she can remember she has always wanted to go to Africa, hence her fascination with anthropology. She has been to Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania and this is her first visit to South Africa.