MELANIE BURREN, USA
I've had the privilege, and joy, of participating as a volunteer at the Chimfunshi Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Zambia, Africa. To begin with, the staff (Jack, the volunteer coordinator, and Rosie, the Project Manager – who were both also our amazing chefs) were a complete delight. I fell in love with my fellow volunteers immediately - even though I was the only “old lady” of the bunch, they didn’t hesitate to take me in as part of the group, and it was a never ending riot being among them. The days were long, and the work was sometimes dirty and hard…but it was never anything that a warm shower, a great meal, and a glass (or two) of wine couldn’t take care of. There were resident dogs that I adored (I kept trying to steal them from Rosie so they would sleep with me at night – but alas, their devotions were to her…). My favorite dog, to everyone’s surprise, was Timmy – a little white scruffy (ok, totally mangy), stone deaf, ancient dog (15yo) that barked nonstop, ALL night long when the female dogs were in heat. I had to give the little guy credit – maybe he couldn’t DO anything with the ladies, but it wasn’t for lack of desire!
Then, or course, there was the main attraction…the Chimps! What amazing creatures (actually, they are so human-like, I don’t even like to call them creatures)! You had to love their humorous, playful antics, as well as their laid-back demeanor as they sprawled out lazily like a tourist on a beach. And you certainly had to respect their power and their strength. Feeding time was always quite comical (and also quite deafening) – watching them each try and hoard nshima balls or their other favorite foods.
We all fell in love with the keepers at Enclosures one and two, soaking in their stories about chimp behavior, as well as about their own culture. And who can forget about the woman who made this all happen…Sheila Siddle. LOVE that woman!
The month ended far too quickly, and saying goodbye was difficult; but I will never forget my time with the chimps and the people at Chimfunshi. In a million years I would’ve never dreamed I would be honored with this experience (but I know now, that dreams really can come true)."