My EHRA Experience – August 2018

EHRA base camp is a nice, quiet place. It is very clean and comfortable, with an outdoor platform for tents for people to sleep in.

Build week camp was located on the edge of a farm. It was quite cold at night, but it was still a great experience sleeping outside.

Patrol week camps were at great locations. Great scenery at night and perfect to watch the sunset. Also it felt very safe despite being out in the wild.

Not washing was difficult. It was nice to get a shower at the end of the week.

EHRA Patrol camp site
EHRA Patrol camp site

We saw a rhino, giraffe, zebra, kudu, springbok, cows, goats and dogs, different birds, and the elephants from both H1 and H2.

I was very lucky on my project because we had a great group of people and we all got along well together. Everyone was very hard-working and motivated to work together and do well. We also had a lot of fun playing different games and chatting in the evening.

EHRA Volunteer Team
EHRA Volunteer Team 20 – 31 August 2018

Being on meal duty was good, because I worked with two girls who had experience from previous weeks so we were able to do it without difficulties. Cooking on the fire was a great experience and the staff helped us a lot.

The work on build week was tough but satisfying. We worked hard for the full week but were given good and clear instructions so we knew what we were doing at all times. We rebuilt two walls. We dug a trench to cover water pipes, and also laid a foundation for a new wall. Really satisfying to see how it turned out.

 

The best part of patrol was observing the elephants from up close. Sleeping outside proved difficult the first night but I soon got used to it and it turned out to be a good experience.

Had you ever seen an elephant before?

Not before this trip!

I first saw an elephant on build week at the farm we were building. It was scary and exciting at the same time. The elephants actually broke the water pipes we had just fixed.

From the above experience alone, I was able to understand the frustration the farmers had with the elephants. But I can  also understand that there have to be suitable drinking spots made available to elephants or else they will keep attacking farms.

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What will you always remember from your time with EHRA?

The people we worked with were wonderful and it was an incredible experience to get so close to the elephants in their natural habitat.

Was the experience with EHRA what you thought it would be?

Yes, everything and more!

Eoin O’ Brien, joined EHRA as a Volunteer from 17 Aug to 01 September 2018, all the way Ireland.

 

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Volunteering With EHRA Was An Amazing Experience!

Our experience was fantastic, and we would like to repeat it again.

EHRA (Elephant Human Relations Aid) is a well-managed organisation, with good professionals, and very nice human beings. The work they do to solve the conflict is outstanding, and we felt privileged for being able to help and make a little contribution.

The volunteering was a powerful experience to value what it matters, learn about yourself, and understand how other people live.

Moreover, Namibia was very welcoming. Its nature was incredible; the colours, sunsets, mountains, desert, animals, etc. People were generally friendly, and we felt safe.

Without a doubt, one of the best experiences of our lives.

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What did you find most rewarding?

Everything was rewarding, but I would say the kids we came across in the desert and the encounter with wild animals (Elephants) in freedom.

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What did you find most challenging?

The most challenging is the construction week, especially because tools are limited, weather is hot, etc.

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What advice would you give to others who are considering joining the EHRA team?

Make the most of of it. Meet new people and disconnect from technology and first world issues.

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Santiago Alvarez, joined EHRA as a Volunteer from 30 April to 11 May 2018

A Special Place In Namibia

Each country has its special places, and so it is in Namibia. There is for example the Fish River Canyon, the Etosha National Park and Damaraland, with its desert adapted elephants.

To be sure, to see the elephants – not in a far distance but as close by as they like you next to them – you should join the volunteering program of EHRA!

You will find this special place at the Ugab river where there is the base camp. Enjoy it! You will find a kitchen, a fixed toilet, a shower and a washbowl. You’ll sleep under the stars in a tree house.

Going out on build week is always different: it depends where the volunteers will help the local people. So the area for the camp is never the same. As well as the volunteers: most of them stay for two weeks while others stay for 4, 6 or 8 weeks. Some will come back. It’s always a group from all over the world.

What is it, why do we join the EHRA-team, why do we come back? It differs, but I think, what connects all us all is: we love nature and… elephants. The desert adapted elephants are a small group, they share the land with the local people – and some tourists. All need water, and water is really rare in Namibia. So sometimes problems are caused by this.  That’s why the volunteers are here, together with the EHRA staff: to protect the water “stations” of the local people in Damaraland from the elephants. The elephants will be offered water at their own water points. And so everyone will be happy.

Sometimes it’s hard to work outside, in the fresh air, with all the heat of Africa. But no problem: there is enough water to drink for all the volunteers and you’ll cook great dishes on the open camp fire. So you’ll not lose your power. And if you are vegetarian or vegan, tell them before, the cooking-plan will be adjusted for you.

EHRA Volunteer with spade for Build Week
Jean-Pierre during EHRA Build Week

After 4 days “out in the field” you’ll go back to base camp and stay there for the weekend. The following week you’ll see a lot of different places in Damaraland. You’re on your way to find the elephants. Don’t worry, you don’t have to walk, you’ll go with the jeeps. Sometimes you might climb up a hill because it’s really difficult to see the elephants among the trees. But the staff know where to find them. Each afternoon you’ll build up a one night camp until the last day when you drive back to base camp.

In between these two weeks you’ll not only work or do the kitchen duty, you’ll also find new friends, talk about this and that, enjoy the nature, take pictures, play games, have fun, make sports like yoga etc. etc. etc. It depends on what the people in your group are interested in doing at the hours of lunch break and at the evening time while sitting around the camp fire. Some might find out that porridge in the morning time isn’t as bad as expected or that cooking in an open kitchen is possible – and it tastes well.

How do I know? I have been twice with EHRA, 2016 and 2017. I, 52, went together with my husband, 57, who was a little bit skeptical at first. But being there he felt great. It was his idea to come back the next year (2017) – and to stay for 4 weeks. And so we did. But for the second time we were not only volunteers. We also joined the Fundraising Trek. We, a group of 9 + 2 guides + a famous duty team, walked within 6 days a distance of 123,4 km through Damaraland. We climbed up Doros Crater, found a secret and salty spring and we found other, very rare plants, like bushman-candle. We saw different wild animals like zebras, springboks and little snakes in their natural environment. And at the last evening, a big group of elephants passed by our camp. This was great, to see them in the dark, hearing the rumbling, hearing the cracking of the branches. If you want to know more about this, join one of the following Fundraising Treks. I’ll not tell the whole story. It has to stay exciting for you.

EHRA volunteer trekking through Damaraland
Vera on the Fundraising Trek

The funding from this trek was for the PEACE (People and Elephants Amicably Co-Existing) Project of EHRA. With the PEACE Project the local communities, rangers, lodge owners in the area, school kids and many others of the locals get information how to behave when the elephants are around. Check out the facebook page of EHRA. There you can read about the latest PEACE Projects and you’ll find pictures as well.

On facebook you can find out who is there or had been there as a volunteer and what was their business.

It would be nice if the volunteers would bring a stick with them to put their photos on it and hand it to the EHRA staff. So others can see their pics and might join one of the following volunteering groups to make their own adventure that you will never forget.

Jean-Pierre & Vera, Germany

Volunteer Project 22 Jan – 2 Feb 2018

Name: Pam (Dolores) Clynes
Age: 34
Country: Mexico City
Project Date: 21st Jan  – 10th Feb

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Why did you choose to volunteer with EHRA?

I’ve always wanted to do a project like this. From the 1 st moment I read about EHRA I knew I wanted to help and volunteer for such an amazing cause, plus I’m obsessed with elephants!

What was build week like?

It was hard work but such great satisfaction. I feel very proud of myself because I was able to get my hands dirty and do the heavy work with passion and a very positive attitude. I felt useful and that I accomplished something good for the community.

What happened on your patrol?

The 1st 2 days I was frustrated that we didn’t get to see the elephants, but Chris was a fantastic guide and explained everything so well, the importance of tracking and following up with the people of the farms, checking in to see if they have any problems to be fixed. The last day was magical, we saw all herds and then they came to the camp to drink from the water holes.

What will you remember most about your time with EHRA?

The people, the vibe, the sunsets and sunrises and the elephants. I had a great time; it’s all I was hoping for, to start the New Year. Thanks for making this an incredible adventure.

 

Name: Laure Gruet
Age: 35 in 7 days
Project date: 22 Jan – 2 Feb 2018

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Bennie’s tracks

Have you travelled or volunteered before? If so where?

I have travelled quite a lot but never volunteered.

Was the experience with EHRA what you thought it would be?

It was beyond my expectations. Everything is great. The base camp is a little heaven in the middle of peace and silence. Build week was hard but rewarding and patrol week was the same, patience… but when we finally saw the elephants all the bumps and the crappy roads were far away.

How did you like sleeping outside?

It was breathtaking to sleep outside under the stars, the sand on a mattress, the sky as a cover and the moon and stars as bedside lamps. The silence and the wind, being part of the wild was stunning.

How did you find not washing?!

I find it too dusty! At the end, I got used to it but I was happy to be able to shower again.

 

Name: Emily Esen
Age: 25
Country: Australia
Project date: 5 Jan – 2 Feb 2018

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Having lunch in the Ugab upstream from camp.

Describe the EHRA base camp:

So fun and quirky, looked like where Peter Pan and the lost boys would hang out! Great layout, really felt like home, very comfortable and clean. The shower was my favourite, made you feel like you where showering under a waterfall.

Describe the build week camp:

Dusty, but obviously can’t be helped, comfortable as it could be under the circumstances. Was so exhausted after building, just slept anyway.

Describe the patrol week camps:

So fun, the spots we found was so beautiful, being able to watch the sunrise and sunset was magical.
Sleeping under the stars was definitely a highlight of the trip!!!

What other animals did you see during your time with EHRA?

Zebra, Giraffe, Springbok, Jackal, eagle, flamingo.(goat, cow and dog… )

 

Name: Martin Carr
Age: 50
Country: Scotland
Project date: 5 Jan – 2 Feb 2018

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What was the group of people like on your project and how did you all get on?

I worked with 2 different groups of people and got on well with both of them.

How did you find cooking on the fire and being on duty?

Not a problem, I have done volunteering before and at home I do lots of camping.

Describe the work on build week and hoe did you find/enjoy it?

It was hard work but well worth it (could do with a cement mixer).

What was the best part of patrol and how did you like sleeping outside?

Seeing the elephants in their natural environment. I enjoyed sleeping outside very much.

 

Beejal’s Blog – EHRA Volunteer Nov ’16

Hello there past and future EHRA volunteers and staff. My name is Beejal ~ I’m a Vancouverite who volunteered with EHRA around Nov 1, 2016.  Here goes my 411 on the experience (but first a bit of back history on “why”):

EHRA to me was more of a spiritual experience. I’ve been wanting to do something with my own hands in terms of trying to help elephants (and all wildlife in general). I’m a financial contributor to organizations like WWF, Sea Shepard and David Sheldrick Wild Life Trust, but I felt I needed to do more. EHRA fit perfectly.

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I have always been a lover of nature and wildlife since I was a kid. I would watch nature TV shows way before they become “popular” like they are today. To admit I watched those shows back then would put me in the “nerd” category in school : ) ~ but hey, watch what you love, right?

The news about elephants, whales, tigers and the like being slaughtered for profit has always disgusted me. I wrote a “fairness blog” that I let EHRA staff Chris and Kaylee read, I think they were a bit surprised at my take on that. I don’t believe corporations have a right to exploit anything they want for profit at the expense of species and indigenous peoples being obliterated.

Also, there’s a show I saw on CNN called “Heros” in 2015 where CNN showcases 20 unique individuals who were truly selfless in their acts of volunteerism, giving, and dedicating their lives to a “cause”. To me, people like that, the wild life park rangers, environmental volunteers (even the ones who camp in trees to keep them from being logged) are doing gods work. Anyways, back to CNN, there was an American woman who went to Nepal after the earthquakes recently. She saw little girls who were abandoned by their families chipping rocks in a river bed to earn money. This woman was so heart broken to witness that she vowed right then and there to save at least one girl from this fate. This woman’s goal was to one day look down on that river bed and not see a single little girl chipping rocks. There must have been hundreds of little Nepalese girls toiling in the river bed. Long story short, this American woman opened a small school and boarding house for little girls next to the river bed. During that CNN broadcast, she told the audience that her goal was achieved, and in 3 years, there was now not 1 little girl in that river bed chipping rocks. All the girls were being taken care of by her orphanage, and all thriving. This story really inspired me. I thought, if by my own hands I can help save even 1 elephant from human/elephant conflict by helping to build a wall around a well, I must do this. If I can save 1, maybe in time, the universe will see to it that ALL are saved someday. I’d like to think years from now (or hopefully even months from now), the world trade in ivory and all wildlife will cease. That’s my wish. That’s what I pray for.

And lastly, I’m a Hindu. Hindu’s believe in the elephant god Ganesh. I felt I can’t pray to the elephant god and just sit back and watch the real elephant gods that walk this earth get slaughtered. I had to do something.

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Namibia arrival and EHRA:
I know Swakopmund, I’ve been in 2011 when I went to Etosha, so it was kind of familiar. I never thought I’d return though, but in 2016 I did. Our group was briefed by Kaylee on that Sunday and I knew I was gonna be in for some serious work (hard labour). I’m the first to admit that I’m a princess. ; ) I didn’t think I could live without my shower, bed, walls, electricity and all that. But I did. For elephants, I had do this.

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My advice to any of you who are thinking of giving EHRA a try, just do it. If princess Beejal can do it, anybody can do it. Trust me.

Getting to basecamp was kind of surreal in a way. I was blown away. I really liked it. We got to sleep in a tree house. I got the “honeymoon suite”. Everything was looking good. All us volunteers were all sitting around the main table after getting to camp wondering when or if we’ll see an elephant. BOOM. A big bull elephant walked by camp. We couldn’t believe it. They’re soooooo quiet. I couldn’t believe it. None of us had our cameras ready either. So, we all hurriedly got our cameras out in case there was another. BOOM again. A 2nd bull walked by. I got him on my sony NEX 5. The bulls stuck around that evening and came into camp at dusk. It was totally a religious experience for me. I’m thinkin’ “the 40 hour flight to Africa was already worth it”.

So, now let me skip over to build week. We were in some small village about 3 hours away from basecamp. It was hard work building that wall. No doubt about it. The heat. The flies. The village kids:) But we all survived. EHRA fed us well and we all did what we could. I happened to get a bunch of “Canada flag” pins from the dollar store before leaving Canada. Man, distributing them to the local kids made me feel like santa claus. It was cool.

Now, patrol week. I’ll keep this short and sweet (just like me): It was absolutely priceless. ; )

Thanks Chris, Kaylee, Matias (young and old), Rachel and the rest of the EHRA staff. This experience is now tattooed in my mind forever.

Volunteer Project 19 March – 1 April 2017

Name: Kim Wusten

Country: Holland

Age: 32

Project Date: 19 March – 1 April 2017

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Why did you choose to Volunteer with EHRA?

My friend Flo volunteered last year in Zimbabwe, a project dedicated to Lions.  She selected this project and asked me to join.  I am a big animal fan but the elephants and human aid aspect appeals a lot.  It’s good to also focus on the core of the problem; lack of awareness and knowledge and EHRA understands that.

What was build week like?

Build week was great.  The ‘owner’ of the water tank said he heard from others that the wall helps.  It was good to build a wall AND muscles.  We had so much fun with our group that even when it’s heavy, hot and dirty the mood was always really good.  Old Mattias and his hip dance, his cat ringtone, Thomas/Michael/Stephan who are just gas (literally and in speak!) Duncan who managed to get scorpion/spider/centipedes in his bed!!!! Great week.

What happened on your patrol?

A Lot! This was a very cool patrol, ranging from proper 4×4 off road mud driving in rivers, driving through red dunes and out on the open grass areas.  We’ve seen Mama Afrika’s herd, G6 with the ‘unknown’ herd and the H2 Herd at the Huab River area.  One of the males passed us in between our cars and was so close I could have touched him.  A mummy elephant and her two year old were also really close to us, unforgettable.

What will you remember most about your time with EHRA?

The feeling of living a more slow paced life where Mother Nature is ruling and very present.  Here you have wildlife how it should be, not in a zoo and not in a national park but free.  I will also remember the experience and knowledge of Chris and Mattias.  There is so much you can learn from them.  Plus my dream to sleep in a tree, like Rafiki from the Lion King, came true!!!

 

Name: Stephen Jeffery

Age: 22

Country: Wales

Project dates: 19 Feb – 1 April 2017

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Had you ever seen an elephant before?

Yes but only in Zooz or safari parks surrounded by cars/on the tele!

How did you feel when you first saw an elephant with EHRA and where did you see them (was it in camp/build week/patrol)?

First live elephant I saw was on the Wednesday afternoon of patrol week.  It was amazing to see them all together eating away happily.

What did you learn about the problems of people and elephants living together?

Learnt of the difficulties in sharing the land between farmers and elephant with them in direction competition for water sources and food.  And the problems arising from people not knowing how to properly act around elephants.

What will you always remember from you time with EHRA?

Voortrekker passing between the cars.

Dave the elephant coming up to say hello.

And sadly the ‘destroyed’ problem elephant that had been shot.

 

Name: Ruth Wemmer-Lueg

Age: 48

Country: Germany

Project date: 20 March – 1 April 2017

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Have you travelled or volunteered before? If so where?

I have travelled to many different countries like India, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Venezuela, Mexico..I stayed with EHRA for 2 weeks in February 2016

Was the experience with EHRA what you thought it would be?

As I was here before I knew what to expect that was why I decided to come back!

How did you like sleeping outside?

I liked sleeping outside under the stars very much.  It is amazing to wake up at night and look into the sky.  Luckily we had mosquito nets!

How did you find not washing?

It was really a problem for me even if I felt really dirty.  I realise again how precious water is.  In our countries we waste water too often!