Working in conservation is to work for a better world
Working for the Nature’s Valley Trust (NVT) has helped me to grow in both a personal and professional way. I am a student of Journalism and International relations from Madrid, Spain, and for me, this was the first time that I have worked in a NGO, in an African country and in environmental education. NTV is managed by local people and it is focusing on four main spheres: research, conservation, education and community. I had the opportunity to participate in all of them during two months, meet amazing volunteers and understand the life in this beautiful area that is Nature’s Valley and surroundings.
I participated in the research and conservation programs with bird ringing, fish surveys, flower walks and boat trips. It was very nice to wake up every day thinking that I was going to do something different in nature that I haven’t experienced before in a big city as Madrid.
Feeling the breathing of a bird in your hands or look at them closer made me understand how fragile they are and what their importance in the ecosystem is. Definitely, the southern double collared Sunbird has become my favorite bird and now I can’t go anywhere without taking a few seconds to see what kinds of birds are around!
Setting nets in the early morning, wearing boots and going into the water or having your shoes full of sand was worth it at the end of the day. Effort has its rewards and I learnt about invasive species in the area such as mosquito fish, how Fynbos need fire to grow, how to contribute to a penguin colony or how to rescue a Giant Petrel stranded on the beach.
Some of my best experiences working with NVT were while working in environmental education. I participated in the Adopt-a-River program, Adopt-a-Beach program, International Week of Biodiversity, Birding Master and Champions Program, and some camps. I have learnt to design my own workshops and facilitate them, be creative, flexible about the circumstances and use recycled materials for the activities. At the same time, I could learn and teach about the animals and plants of the area, pollution and water with and to the students from the communities around. I realise that people don’t need to spend a lot of resources to make a difference, get a good experience and a good knowledge for the participants of your lessons. One of the main rewards for me was to see the smiles of the children pointing out animals, putting their hands up to answer, playing in the lagoon and applying what they had learnt after the lesson. Being hugged by the children at the end of the lessons made me think how happy they were to have the opportunity of having that experience and how people care about the environment even if they have limited resources. I can say that I have learnt the importance of conserving the areas, changing our behavior and reconnecting humans and the environment.
After my work in NVT and meeting its amazing team - Mark and Cindy are now not only my boss, they are friends for me - my perception has changed in a professional way and I consider to combine environment and international journalism in my future. I recommend everybody to look for good experiences with nature, South African and international people as I had with Nature’s Valley Trust, but, above everything, I recommend to remember that in conserving nature, we conserve ourselves as well. You can already start contributing wherever you are and with the words of NTV: make the difference in our world!