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What Makes a Volunteer Volunteer?

KSTR LogoBy Mckenzie Wing, Volunteer Coordinator & Biologist

Since its foundation 21 years ago this month, by two 9-year-olds, Kids Saving the Rainforest has always tried to keep at least one nominal “Spokes-kid” around to continue the tradition of, well, kids saving the rainforest. However, with all the children of staff and volunteers growing up or moving away, such a role has just recently been passed to me, for reasons I still don’t fully understand. Am I the youngest? Not even close. The most childlike-at-heart? Not likely. The most immature? Not—Ok, well, possibly.

Volunteers cheeringBut when I am not filling the tiny shoes of all the Spokeskids before me, leading tours of the wildlife sanctuary, organizing sloth research, assisting with animal pickups (mostly because no one else on staff can drive our manual-transmission Wildlife Ambulance), or relocating wild snakes off the grounds, I find time to do my primary job, which is coordinating KSTR’s volunteer program.

I’m always interested in the reasons people choose to become volunteers, who consist of our largest workforce and one of our greatest sources of funding. Their stories impress and mystify me. Their backgrounds are as varied and diverse as the countries they call home.
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Volunteers holding food for animalsMany, as I expected, tend to be young people looking for work experience. These are the twenty-somethings on a gap year, or in between college semesters. Maybe they have an environmental background, or are trying to champion a good conservation cause. Maybe they’ve traveled before, but some are away from home and out of the country for the first time. They may stay and work for a few weeks, but oftentimes extend and stick around, postponing flights back to “real life” to spend more time with the animals.

But some are older, with careers and families. Some are couples, using a rare opportunity to synch vacations and travel together and come here to spend that precious time off to help animals. More often than not these types have no environmental or science background at all—we’ve had lawyers, doctors, engineers… They come from London, New York, Sydney, even from Dubai. And yet here they are.

What brings people like these out here? What possesses someone to be so generous to spend a vacation working? To “Voluntour?” For most, again, the opportunity is a career move and work experience, but that’s not always the case. After all, how exactly does a lawyer from London personally benefit from using their holiday to feed sloths?

Mckenzie WingSome say curiosity. They wanted to try something completely different. Their lives were unfulfilled. They wanted to help. They wanted to challenge themselves, to get out of their comfort zone. They really, really like sloths. Actually, I get that one a lot.

So if you have the time, the resources, and the inclination, come check us out. Want first-hand animal work? No prior experience necessary. Need a break from that office job? Do you get bored easily on a vacation and prefer to stay busy? We can use you. Do you like sloths? Like, really, really like sloths? Contact me at volunteer@kstr.com.

You are not alone.

Kids Saving the Rainforest is a non-profit animal rescue/sanctuary and reforestation project located in Quepos. Tours are available six days a week by contacting chip@kstr.org and volunteer opportunities are available at volunteer@kstr.org. Please check out our Facebook and Instagram pages as well. Pura Vida from the staff and interns at Kids Saving the Rainforest.


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