By Rachel Thomas '14
Alysa Hansen '14 spent three weeks at the end of May and the beginning of June volunteering at African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary in Thornhill, South Africa, as a summer Odyssey project.
Hansen, a biology major, chose to work at the sanctuary because it gave her hands-on experience with a variety of animals, most of them native to Africa, and offered her a chance to experience working in animal care and rehabilitation, which is a career field she is considering.
"Every day I was responsible for feeding animals, cleaning enclosures and the best part-providing the animals with attention," Hansen said. "This experience allowed hands-on work with various animals including cheetahs, servals, South African lynx, and kudu."
"Some animals at the sanctuary are permanent residents as their injuries will never fully heal, while other animals are rehabilitated and then released. The experience was absolutely amazing!" Hansen said. "The culture there is completely different and something you have to experience for yourself to fully appreciate it. It was really interesting speaking to locals who spoke different language dialects such as Afrikaans and 'the click'. While there, the sanctuary released 5 owls back into the wild and it was a sight to see."
Hansen worked alongside sanctuary staff, as well as other volunteers from countries like England, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia.
"Probably the greatest part of the trip was getting to go in and sit with the different animals as well as being able to go on a safari at Schotia," Hansen said. "On your last day at the sanctuary you are allowed to go in with the cheetahs - truly beautiful creatures."
Of course, there were one or two cultural adjustments.
"The most unusual thing was how terrible the Diet Coke tasted …," Hansen said.
However, Hansen fully recommends the experience.
"I would definitely recommend African Dawn to others who wish to spend time working with South African wildlife and being surrounded by amazing people who are dedicated to the animals," Hansen said. "African Dawn is definitely a place I will be returning to."
African Dawn Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary opened to the public in 1997, and has hosted volunteers from around the world, who work for days or months to help care for the birds and animals at the sanctuary. Volunteers are given room and board. To learn more about African Dawn, visit their website.
Rachel Thomas '14 is an English studies major from Fayetteville, Ark.
Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is a national leader in engaged liberal arts and sciences education. Hendrix was named the country's #1 "Up and Coming" liberal arts college for the third consecutive year by U.S. News and World Report. Hendrix is featured in the 2011 edition of the Princeton Review as one of the country's best 376 colleges and is listed in the 2012 edition of the Fiske Guide to Colleges as one of 25 "Best Buy" private colleges included. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. For more information, visit www.hendrix.edu.