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By Leeon Boujo, Outreach Intern (August - December 2021)
If what you are imagining is taking selfies with chimpanzees and playing with baby chimps – you are not in the right place. But if what you are looking for is to make a significant difference in the lives of people and chimpanzees alike, strengthen communities and assist in environmental conservation efforts – keep reading. Tacugama’s Outreach Department is the place for you.
I arrived at Tacugama on a rainy evening late in August. The journey was not easy – two international flights, a boat ride and a rough drive to get to the jungle. When I finally arrived at my new home, I got to realize just how different it is to what I was accustomed to. To take a hot shower entailed heating myself a bucket of water, electricity was no longer something I could rely on and amongst my house guests I could anticipate a wide variety of creepy crawlers.
The work proved to be as demanding and challenging as the living conditions. With ten different community development programs and extensive educational programs set out all over the country, you can expect long working hours and a busy schedule.
Despite the above mentioned (or maybe actually thanks to!), my volunteering experience with Tacugama’s Outreach Department is one of the best experiences I ever had. I cannot recommend it enough. There are so many reasons to visit Sierra Leone, from the culture experience, the beautiful nature and pristine beaches or the vivid social life of Freetown, but as far as I’m concerned, the volunteer work with Tacugama is the best one.
If you are still not convinced, here are the top five reasons to join the volunteer program:
1. The warmest welcome
Nothing is warmer than a Sierra Leone welcome (especially if you are arriving between February-July!). From the first moment I stepped in Tacugama I felt welcomed and taken care of. Everyone went out of their way to make sure I am comfortable and would have a positive stay. Little did I know that soon enough I would consider these people my family.
2. Off the beaten track
Sierra Leone is a gem, not yet discovered by many. As not many foreigners are around, there is true and genuine interest and curiosity towards you. People are happy and excited to get to know you. This is especially true in the remote communities you will get to work with as part as your work for the outreach projects. Visiting the communities, nestled in beautiful, wild nature and enjoying the authentic cultural experience was one of my favorite parts.
3. Hands on experience
Working with the outreach department, means taking an essential role. You will choose the project that you are passionate about and take on real responsibilities. Whether it is working on educational programs, with content development and sessions at local schools, or if its community development, conducting research and implementing sustainable livelihood programs- volunteering in the field provides you with insight into real-world contexts and plenty of opportunities to add to your personal and professional skill set, which is an excellent way to boost your career prospects.
4. Making a difference
Tacugama is more than a chimp sanctuary. They believe and invest in the local communities as the one that can actually create and foster change. For this reason, the outreach community programs aim to strengthen and empower the community, and provide members with better opportunities. As part of the team, you get the chance to do just that, and contribute to the kind of community and world you want to live in. Knowing that you made a positive impact on someone is an emotional experience like no other.
5. The chimps!
There are actually 107 different reasons. As you will get to know, each one of the amazing chimpanzees that call Tacugama home, have their own personality and will give you different reasons to fall in love with them. At the end of the day, nothing beats spending your days amongst these amazing creatures.
So, what are you still waiting around for?? Start packing and prepare for an experience you will never forget.