Wildlife volunteering is incredibly popular and for good reason. Animals are helpless. They can’t argue for their habitats or negotiate to change energy policy. They can’t advocate for their children. Often wildlife volunteers are interested in more than simply saving a single creature. They want to see habitats protected on a global scale. They care about the health and welfare of our planet and want animals to survive for future generations. I happen to be an avid wildlife volunteer. I believe that animals and the environment deserve more attention. Without the food and shelter nature provides, millions of people would find themselves homeless and starving. The problem is multifaceted and complex but however you look at it, our world’s creatures are in peril and they need our help.
Welcome to part two of our Ripple Effect interview with Anna Strahs Watts, blogger, gluten free baker and avid traveler. To learn more about Anna and her amazing adventures, visit her blog A Girl and Her Backpack, where she chronicles her experiences overseas and how they have changed her perspective on the world in which we live.
Welcome back to our interview series, The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect explores the emotional impact of volunteer travel and its lasting effect on people’s lives. Today we’re speaking with Anna Strahs Watts, blogger, baker and avid traveler. Anna sold the gluten free bakery she built from the ground up to go on a month long volunteer trip to Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Her blog, A Girl and Her Backpack, chronicles her experiences overseas and how they have changed her perspective on the world in which we live. Please check back in tomorrow for part two of our interview with Anna Strahs Watts.
Naturally, the voluntourism industry aims to serve the largest number of people possible. It’s kind of like politics: one party trying to appeal to the largest demographic by riding the middle. As the market grows, more and more organizations are providing streamlined, polished, non-threatening excursions that get people excited without frightening them. This is great because it means more people are deciding to travel and volunteer. But for adventurous volunteers who are looking for something less polished—something challenging, remote, and raw—these voluntours may not be a good fit. These travelers are the third party voters, people who like small organizations that don’t compromise on specific issues (like adventure). For them I suggest Fronteering, an exciting volunteering organization that brings travelers off the beaten path to experience isolated cultures in remote areas.
When I was about nine years old, I decided to save the whales. I wrote up a petition and collected over 500 signatures from my neighbors (this was before the Internet, when 500 signatures meant a solid two weeks of canvassing). I sent my petition to my senator and got a hand-written response and an invitation to the Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institute to learn more about conservation. It was thrilling to feel like I’d done something to help the animals I loved the most, and to be recognized for my passion and desire to help. I’ve mentioned this project here before because it was the first time I ever stood up for something I believed in. It was the moment in my life when I realized that activism is possible for anyone, even for nine-year-old girls, and that every one of us needs to stand up for animals because they can’t stand up for themselves.