Remember when GivingWay had our #givinghappiness giveaway? And whoever won would get $500 towards a volunteer trip? 😀
And we had our winner – Isabella! ✨
Well she went on her volunteer trip to RAREC and we finally got a chance to catch up with her and ask all about her experience at the wildlife rescue center in Peru! She also sent us some fantastic photos and videos of her time there!
Check them out and take a look at what she had to say about her volunteering experience!
GivingWay: What organization did you volunteer with?
Isabella: I volunteered with RAREC (Rainforest Awareness Rescue Education Center), a wildlife rescue center in the Peruvian Amazon.
GW: How long did you volunteer for?
Isabella: I spent 9 days looking after the animals at RAREC. I feel I really got to know most of the animals personalities in the short time I was there. I was lucky to be staying in a room right in between the manatee pool and the baby woolly monkeys, so I got to see them every day.
GW: Can you describe a typical day during your volunteering?
Isabella: On a typical day, I would wake up after 6 am to be ready to give the four baby woolly monkeys their 7 am milk and probiotics.
After their temperature had been taken and they had been weighed, it was time to put them into their larger cages. My roommate and I would clean each crate by removing the newspaper and giving the crate a good wash and leave them to dry in the sun. We would normally have lunch with the rest of the volunteers and have some free time around 12 pm. We would feed the monkeys a range of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, weighing the exact quantities on the scales and give to the monkeys at the set times.
We were also taking care of a poorly red and green winged macaw, so made sure he was given his medicine and food throughout the day. Every day we also went to collect leaves for the manatees to eat. Before nightfall, we would clean the larger enclosures and get the crates ready with newspaper, make tiny blanket hammocks, and get hot water bottles wrapped in a towel for the smallest monkeys. It is quite hands on work as a lot of days are 7 am – 7 pm, but it was an amazing experience to get up close with the animals who need your help. After 7 pm we would have dinner with the rest of the group and play card games and have a nice chat.
GW: Were there other volunteers there? What were they like and did you get along?
Isabella: I shared a room with a French girl who ended up coming with me to Cusco and we even plan to meet again in London. There was a whole mix of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds and countries including; Israel, Canada, United States, England and Ireland, to name a few. The people who work there full time are mainly from Colombia and Peru so it was a whole variety of people and we all got on very well. We had a good team and all of us supported each other. One night, I had to go out in the dark to feed the ocelot at 7 pm, and one of the volunteers offered to come with me to hold the torch while I held the food and water, which I appreciated!
GW: What animals did you work with?
Isabella: I had the chance to take care of lots of monkeys, including; capuchins, squirrel monkeys, woollies, spider monkeys and a saki monkey. We would collect leaves for the manatees daily, and their pool would be cleaned out every other day. I also fed the ocelot, the macaw and had a chance to feed the resident tapir. I also had the opportunity to train the otter and feed him fish.
GW: Did you get to practice your Spanish as you said you wanted to in your entry?
Isabella: Yes, the resident vet was not confident speaking English so I would help to translate for her when she would ask me to. I was also able to speak in Spanish to the other full time staff members. I even had the chance to go to the local school to teach English for one morning which I enjoyed!
GW: What was Peru and Iquitos like? Did you get any time to explore? What did you like or not like about it?
Isabella: My flight from Lima to Iquitos was delayed, and after a 30 hour long journey I decided to spend the night in the city centre and go to RAREC the next day. That morning in Iquitos city centre I went to the local market to get a fruit smoothie, I spoke to a man sitting on the chair next to me who was also having breakfast. He said he was there as he had been at a conference. I told him about the rescue project, we had a pleasant chat and he wished me luck on my adventures. I could tell Peru was a friendly place as I felt very safe there. I was met at my hotel by the Director of RAREC and another member of staff. We got a tuk tuk to the minibus. I loved the journey as the bus was full of people so I got to observe how they interacted with each other, and the driver was playing some good Spanish songs. When I got to RAREC I was immediately greeted by two of the resident dogs. One of the staff was also there, and she gave me a tour.
The climate was very warm, and indeed, I can see why it is called the ‘rain’ forest! I think the weather is a bit temperamental but that’s to be expected! One day in Iquitos, we had some free time and went to the beach. We had the chance to go on a boat, jump into the river for some swimming (with piranhas!), saw some wild monkeys climbing on the trees and watched some locals playing football as we dried off before jumping on the minibus back to the wildlife centre.
GW: What was your favorite part about volunteering at RAREC?
Isabella: It was nice to lay on the hammocks, and spend time with the resident rescue dogs and chill with the other volunteers. I enjoyed just listening to the otter while he was being fed, he made the cutest happy sounds. I would go and watch every time he was being given food. One day, I got to go in his cage to teach him some tricks using a clicker and feed him fish. He was very clever and would do commands like paw and fetch! I also loved going into the adult woolly monkey cage, Chacha would always climb onto me and stay with me the whole time I cleaned the cage, she was very curious and sweet. I could tell it was her on my back and sitting on my head by the little noises she made.
GW: What would you improve?
Isabella: The meals provided for vegans were not very nutritionally balanced. Usually it would just be a large plate of quinoa or rice with a few cucumbers on the side and occasionally a couple of slices of plantain. It would have been nice to have some lentils or beans to get some protein.
GW: What did you learn while volunteering there?
Isabella: I was able to learn about wildlife as I was collecting leaves using a machete and learnt how to plait leaves to make a roof. We would collect large leaves to put in the monkey cages so they felt like they were out in the forest. I also discovered some fruits and vegetables I didn’t know existed and learnt some new Spanish words. I learnt to appreciate what I have, as life is very humble there.
To learn more about and apply to volunteer at RAREC, you can click here! 💚