Leandro Evangelista
3 September 2018

Attention! To all those considering to volunteer, intern or study at Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT); JUST DO IT! (Shia LaBeouf) This experience has changed my life. I can now call the people I worked with as my friends and family. I loved the time spent in nature with animals. And without a doubt I have never grown so much in such a short period of my life. I never want to forget anything that happened throughout my 3-month internship because I see it as a big turning point in my life. NVT certainly feels like a home away from home to me. Now let me explain why.


Chewie, his majesty and ruler of the commoners (us).

I came to NVT to work primarily with their environmental education program. We would go to different outdoor locations to give lessons on a variety of conversation topics. One day we would be talking about birds, another day we would explain the importance of sand dunes. These lessons were fun because they had practical hands-on experience for these kids (and for me!). On the lessons about birds we would search for birds with binos. During lessons on the beach, we would use the dino-light to zoom in on tiny grains of sands and run experiments. When we held lessons on rivers, the kids would suit up in boots and catch invertebrates to assess the quality of the river. I don’t know about you, but I much rather be outside!

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Marine debris at my favourite beach, Keurbooms. Just look at those rocks!

But that’s not it at all. NVT is awesome because you can participate in almost everything they do. Which surprised me. I got to experience such a wide variety of conversation projects, and I had lots of fun doing them. Especially because most of the time you are outside in the thick of it, getting your hands dirty and your clothes wet. I got to participate in bird-ringing, seine-netting, marine debris data collection, mosquito fishing, CWAC (Coordinated Waterbird Counts) monitoring, flower walks and even a rehabilitated penguins release (totally unexpected)! You know, I was very surprised by the reach NVT has. I spent time in a small garage office with anywhere from 6-10 people, of those, 6 are permanent staff. To me that’s a small staff. I got to participate in different special events such as World Oceans day, Mandela day, and the Kurland Village Greening. During these special events, and regular NVT projects, I often worked with other staff and volunteers from other organisations. I began to quickly realize how much NVT does and how far their reach truly goes. A lot of people recognize and support NVT. It’s cool, you almost feel like a celebrity. Conservation celebrity of course. Do not let the location on google maps fool you.

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Fairview vineyard (Cape Town).

I will not go over the touristy things I did to save you some time, but please set aside some money and time to be a tourist. You will not regret it.

Reader: “Okay Leandro, everything you said is cool and sounds fun, but I don’t want to go for these _______ reasons.”

Me: “Just do it.”

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Go pet the goats. They are always meditating. The most grounded animal I have ever been around.

Look I had some fears coming here. My biggest fear was how will I cope with my chronic pain away from home. For me that was the biggest reason not to go. I would be far away from comfort and support. What happens when I have terrible nerve pain in my neck and back? What happens when it lasts a week no matter what I do? I went regardless and I have never grown this quickly in three months. I am telling you, you do not know how much knowing and power already exists inside of you until you are put to the test. I let go of so many limitations throughout this trip. It was like a purification process. I found it easier to separate the parts and pieces that I used to confuse myself as me. As a result, it became easier to see who I am and who I am not. I can express my truth with much more ease and I take better care of myself. I no longer waste time hesitating, procrastinating, and overthinking as I used to. Please do yourself a solid and come here if you feel the pull in your heart. That is your intuition guiding you. Trust it.

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What a gorgeous animal (Kudu)!

Oh yeah, learning Afrikaans to tease co-workers in their own language is hilarious and so fun. Yoh! I miss this place and these people so much. They have a great sense of humour. I spent so much time joking and laughing with them. For me that’s what made this experience special. They treat you like family, and like family the roasting never stops! Thank you for everything. Goodbye my seuntjies and meisietjies!