Nicola Gatiss

Jakob Frost
January 21, 2015

Nicola Gatiss

I volunteered this summer in Peten in Guatemala. I can honestly say after a good shower, I was ready to go back!! I was very anxious about going there as it was my first experience with this kind of volunteering, and the first time I had gone into the rainforest environment! I was equipped with mosquito nets, 100{ac6f2bc95b79266b003a58a971d11454600243c1bbb6280752d36c9990d144a7} deet anti mosquito spray, long sleeved tops and trousers! I arrived and had the support package and was picked up from the airport and taken by boat to the site. I was extremely nervous, especially as my Spanish was virtually non-existent!

After the climb up to the main living area (is not that steep, but feels really long the first time you do it!), I met everyone at breakfast – when I arrived there were 30 volunteers and Ali and Anna immediately made me feel at home. After orientation around the camp, where you are just in awe of where you are and the animals and the effort made to rehabilitate them, I was thrown into working on the 11am shift.

The work is not hard, but can be tiring (6.30 start!), everyone pitches in together and helps and you are always paired up with someone who has been working on your section for a few days. They help you and then you teach someone else and you move on to another section. During my two weeks, I worked with parrots, macaws, owls, howler monkeys and spider monkeys. The experience is something I will never forget. Even as the number of volunteers fluctuate, working as a team, the animals are cared for and monitored to a high level.

I soon ditched the long sleeves and trousers for shorts and t shirts – be prepared to ruin a few clothes! You may be a bit smelly at the end of your shifts, but rest assured everyone is, so no-one notices! I managed to survive with minimum mosquito bites (compared to others there), but I did regularly use the spray. I think 100{ac6f2bc95b79266b003a58a971d11454600243c1bbb6280752d36c9990d144a7} deet spray is the way to go, but don’t expect it to protect you completely! There is free time after 3pm and trips twice a week into Flores on the ARCAS boat.
You are made to feel that you are important in the help you are providing. Every morning, you give feedback about the animals you are caring for. The presentation on the parrot release when I was there, really showed how these animals can be rehabilitated and the importance of trying to get them back into the wild.

If you go expecting to cuddle baby monkeys and talk to the parrots then you will be disappointed, if you want to feel like you are doing something meaningful, you will not be disappointed. The aim here is to de-humanise and help the animals as best they can to enable them to be able to survive in their natural environment. I would like to thank all the staff and volunteers I met for making it one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.