Natasha Naidoo, who studied at the University of Birmingham and now works in the museums and heritage sector, was part of the 2014 Merazonia team. Find out about her time volunteering in Ecuador, and how the work of her team benefitted the animal refuge centre.
When I first researched volunteering abroad, I found these huge organisations ask for a lot of money on top of your flights, and you have no idea where it all goes. The trips they plan appeared to me more like a glorified holiday. InterVol are truly committed to the volunteering side of things, which is why I would recommend them to anyone thinking of volunteering abroad.
I volunteered at an animal refuge called Merazonia, in Ecuador, whose primary concern is the welfare and rehabilitation of trafficked, abused and injured animals. To achieve this, the organisation relies heavily on volunteer help to clean and feed the animals three times a day. They are one of the only centres in Ecuador to not have any parasites due to the diligent care they give to the animals. The work required a good level of fitness and can be physically draining, but the people who work there are motivated and dedicated to the cause. If working with animals is something of interest to you, I would recommend contacting Merazonia. They are an extremely worthwhile organisation who genuinely put the money they receive to good use.
As InterVol volunteers we were granted the decision of where to use the money we had fundraised. I found this particularly special, as often when you fundraise money for a charity or cause you never know exactly how it has been used. My group and I decided to use the money for Merazonia’s Woolly Monkey Project, in which volunteers were building a new enclosure to house the woolly monkey. It was a truly worthwhile cause and I was thrilled to see how our money was used to help with the building of the enclosure during our stay.
Surrounded by greenery and trees galore, I called this place home for about a month. We had no electricity and had to cook and eat by candlelight, which was a challenge but a great experience! Some of the volunteers I met actually preferred an electricity-free lifestyle; they found it more peaceful living without the constant sound of phones pinging, which I very much admired. Being completely immersed in the jungle life was both challenging yet rewarding.
Merazonia has a real sense of community spirit, nothing is ever done half-heartedly and everything is done for the good of the animals. It was inspiring to see how passionate the volunteers were, and it motivated me to carry out the work I was given to the best of my ability. The project motivated me to pursue a career path that I was truly passionate about so that I could exhibit the same level of passion that the volunteers at Merazonia do.