Search Blogs

Charity partner

Kate & Ruan in Botswana

Kate & Ruan
Cheetah Conservation Botswana, Botswana

South African accountant Ruan got in touch with AfID as he was interested in finding a project where both he and his wife, who is qualified in Conservation Biology were able to volunteer together. The duo ventured off to Botswana to volunteer with Cheetah Conservation for 5 weeks and a little while after they got back, we got in touch to ask a few questions about their inspiration for the trip, what they got up to and if they'd consider doing it again...


What made you want to volunteer with AfID?

We have always enjoyed travelling and exploring new places – we also wanted to get more involved in the non-profit sector so AfID therefore seemed a logical step towards a career in this field at the same time as supporting a business needing help with their financial systems.


Which one of you initially had the idea to volunteer? Did the other one take some convincing?

I (Kate) have volunteered for various organisations since I was young and it was therefore something with which I was quite accustomed. Ruan took a bit of convincing initially to start on his first volunteer project but the idea grew on him and he was actually the one who found out about AfID and initiated the process. Whilst the cost was a factor in our decision, we both agreed that it was worth the expense because we had the support that we needed and it gave us structure, an ability to contribute, and the negotiating power that we would not have had had we not had AFID as a partner.


What were your roles within Cheetah Conservation and were they a good match to your backgrounds?

Ruan was responsible for review of the organisation's accounts in preparation for the annual audit and training staff to transition accounting responsibilities from the recently departed full-time volunteer accountant. This was quite similar to what he does at his regular job, so this assignment was exactly in line with his background. I (Kate) was responsible for analysing data collected for one of CCB's studies and also reviewed and advised on data collection and management practices. Given my extensive scientific fieldwork experience, I felt I too was was able to add a lot of value.


What do you think was your biggest achievement during your time volunteering?

Ruan: I worked with several members of CCB's staff on the financial aspects of the organisation and I ended up doing a fair amount of training. Towards the end of the assignment a number of the employees approached me for advice about reaching their personal financial goals and it felt quite rewarding to be trusted in held in such high regard to make a difference not just for the organisation but also for its employees.

Kate: I think my biggest achievement was, strangely I know, after I left. The organization that we worked with, Cheetah Conservation Bostwana, recently co-published a collaborative scientific paper on the status of cheetah in the wild. Working with a partner, I helped to get the word out about the research results and the organization in a popular article with The Dodo. The government of Botswana noticed the article and even shared it on their Facebook page, which brought recognition to the organization and all the hard work they are doing to prevent the extinction of cheetah in Botswana. It was a very proud moment for me, and I felt extra grateful to have been part of such a meaningful project.


When you weren’t volunteering, what were your favourite moments of the trip?

During our time there, we managed to get away to a safari camp on an island in the Okavango Delta, which was a magical experience. We also very much enjoyed going on a trek to see rhinos on foot at a wildlife reserve a short walk from where we were staying in Gaborone. We often went to the wildlife reserve to have a sunset dinner or lunch on the weekends.


How did it compare to trips you’ve shared together in the past?

Honestly, there is no comparison between a holiday and contributing to a local organization in a new country. You are immersed in the culture. You are introduced to and form relationships with people you would have never met had you just gone on holiday. Don't get us wrong, we love going on holiday and exploring new places and countries, but this is a completely different experience and in many ways more meaningful than a holiday could ever be. You grow so much over such a short period of time, and you always consider the place home after you leave.


Did you enjoy the experience and would you do it again?

Our goal is to do work like this on a permanent basis. The word "enjoy" does not match up to the experience; perhaps cherish is a better word. We do indeed cherish this experience and all that we learned from it and we continue to contribute where we can.

Read Blog