Everyone who knows me, knows how much I respect the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, a charity that looks after and rehabilitates orphaned elephants in Nairobi, Kenya.
It was founded in 1977 in memory of David Sheldrick and it is run by Dame Daphne Sheldrick and her daughter Angela Sheldrick.
If you are in Kenya, you can visit the orphanage between 11 and 12 for the feeding time where you get to see the groups of orphaned elephants having their milk, which is made from a special formula created by Dame Daphne Sheldrick after many many different trials. You can also book private time with the elephant in advance during the evenings, but this is dependent on many factors so worth doing well in advance. The entrance fee goes towards their care.
The elephants arrive at the orphanage either because they have been the victim of their mothers being poached, or from being separated from their herd. The elephants range from nursery orphans to slightly older ones. They stay here with the keepers before being moved on to be slowly rehabilitated back into the wild.
You can help this cause in so many different ways, which include fostering an elephant, either for yourself or as a gift for a loved one. I have quite a few elephants I have fostered, as well as Maxwell the resident rhino.
As well as fundraising events, such as the elephant run, you can also volunteer your skills to help in the UK and US. You will be amazed to know that there is a very small group of amazing people who work behind the scenes full time for such an incredible cause and the amount they achieve is superb. However, sometimes during busy periods, they welcome as much help as possible.
I have personally volunteered twice so far at their UK office in Surrey, and hope to continue as much as I can. I did this as part of my community day offered by my place of work so it is worth checking if your work place offered similar days to give back.
The DSWT does not take on volunteers on in Kenya for a number of reasons. Firstly, caring for the orphans is a long term commitment and the keepers care for them as a temporary family and are with them for up to 10 years.
Enabling local Kenyans the opportunity play a part in the hand-raising of orphans helps create an affinity with the species and the keepers then share this conservation message with their families and communities, further spreading this essential conservation message.
Furthermore, paid or voluntary work in Kenya by foreigners requires a Work Permit, whilst walking in the bush brings with it an element of danger and, understandably, the government does not allow a foreigner to be exposed to this without armed escort.
You can,however, volunteer in both the US and UK for outreach events and administrative support. You can request to be added to the list of volunteers at:
US: firstname.lastname@example.org and you will provided with an application.
I receive monthly emails which detail the type of help they require.
As an example, I have put my excel and marketing skills to use in the UK office helping with database maintenance as well as trends analysis to help plan fundraising events better in the future. You can also help with fundraising events, stock taking and manning stalls at major events.
If you are keen to find out more about this cause, Kristin Davis has also produced a fantastic documentary called Gardeners of Eden which gives great insights into the work the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust does and can be viewed on iTunes and Netflix. For more information visit: http://officialkristindavis.com/gardeners-of-eden/
For more information about the cause you can also read more here: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org