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Friday, June 22, 2012

Why South Africa? Because I C.A.R.E.!

For the month between booking my ticket and departure to South Africa, I quickly realized that this country did not hold the same public allure of my previous destinations. In the past, mentioning New Zealand, Australia, or France as past/future homes has frequently garnered ooohs and ahhs from the masses.  Undoubtedly, I have felt the same during these moves and travels. (New Zealand had been idolized in my mind for as long as I can recall… and still is!).

         South Africa?  You’re going to South Africa?  Hmm…ok.  Why?  (Emphasis on the Why?)

I concede that South Africa does not hold the same romantic and idyllic characteristics as many other destinations, but those weren’t my motives.  In fact, my motives were launched nearly 7 years ago while at home, sitting in front of the television.  Animal Planet, producer of many animal shows, including a series entitled, “Growing up… (insert animal species)” hooked me with one episode in particular.  In 2005 I saw “Growing up…Baboon.”  Yes, baboons.  Somehow, someway, this show stuck with me, I don’t know how to describe it, and 7 years later I continued to think about it.  (Excerpts of Growing up Baboon by Animal Planet)

The show featured a wild animal rehabilitation center and reserve in northeast South Africa (adjacent to Kruger National Park) that focused on Chacma baboons.  The Center for Animal Rehabilitation and Education (C.A.R.E.) was founded by a German woman Rita Miljo, nearly 30 years ago.  C.A.R.E. takes in, raises, rehabilitates, and provides sanctuary to wild baboons that have been orphaned, severely injured, beaten, abandoned, or otherwise sentenced to demise in the wild.  It relies heavily on volunteers to carry out its philanthropic mission, which is where I come in!  The Center requires volunteers to commit to a minimum 4 weeks stay and maximum 12 weeks.  Volunteers pay a weekly enlistment fee that covers room, board, and a donation to C.A.R.E.

With 4 months between graduation from UGA and an October move to Memphis, I had some time to kill (i.e. more than the necessary 4 weeks!).  I thought about India and Thailand (to learn to cook! and to eat deliciously!), but was reminded of a memory… C.AR.E.!  Alas, I submitted a volunteer application, and enlisted to volunteer for 6 weeks at C.A.R.E., still motivated by the same show from 7 years prior.  After 6 weeks of baboon-dom, 7 weeks will remain until my return journey back to the States to explore and learn about South Africa.

Perhaps now this 3 month venture to South Africa makes a little more sense to each of you, and where my motivations lie.  I suppose this Center is on my proverbial Bucket List, and now I have the opportunity to embrace it!

Excerpts of Growing up Baboon by Animal Planet

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