volunteer

Expedition 2020: Nepal

This will be our 4th Expedition and this time we are going to the roof top of the world! Come with us to Nepal for 10 full days of volunteering with dogs, visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, hiking through terraced fields and taking part in the most wonderful of days: Kukur Tihar. That's right, we will be in Nepal for the blessing of the dogs! We will be arriving in Kathmandu on November 10th 2020 and staying for 10 full days!

Included: carbon balancing, all accommodation, meals, in-country transportation, access and admission to all UNESCO sites, fully guided day trek, full volunteer fees and donations to dog rescue centres. $2495 Canadian.

Want to learn more about Expedition Nepal?

AEI empowers animal lovers, students, professionals, and adventure seekers to travel and make a difference by volunteering with animals.

Our exceptional experiences are safe, ethical and unforgettable. Join our team of international volunteers and explore the world while doing what you love. It doesn’t matter who you are, we will help you make a difference.

Tired of competition? Join forces to change to the world!

It can seem sometimes that our world is geared towards competition. Throughout our education, during our quest for the perfect job, while searching for the perfect apartment, in the workplace - it can feel like everyone is pitted against each other. And this can create a culture of scarcity. We can begin feeling like we need to fight for what we want, or settle for something less and feel not so great about ourselves.

In my life I have experienced these feelings first hand. Unfortunately, veterinary medicine is a fairly competitive field. For me this meant I was competing with my university classmates for a spot at vet school. Once in vet school I was competing with my classmates for placement opportunities in my field. My interest has always been in wildlife conservation, and it seemed we were constantly told that there weren't enough spots, not enough opportunities, not enough jobs. 

This feeling of famine can make us close ranks, stop sharing, focus on our own best interests.

But what if we turned this idea on its head - began to look at the world from a place of plenty. What if there was more than enough for everyone?

This is the philosophy that was behind the founding of Animal Experience International. We set out to create a space where people are encouraged to participate. Where there are opportunities for all! Everyone can get involved! There is no shortage of places you can visit and ways in which you can help! 

Creating a culture of bounty means we are collaborating and creating together. We are sharing and joining forces to make the world a better place. When we remove the pressure of competition and the fear of failure, we see people soar, their hearts open, the possibilities become endless. This is where true growth begins, true innovation, true change making. 

Join us at Animal Experience International and embrace collaboration and abundance. You can make a difference today!


Expedition: Guatemala, recap by Lauren

Why Volunteer in Guatemala?

Did you know that animal trafficking is the third largest illegal source of commerce worldwide? Wildlife trafficking, along with unsustainable forestation, over-hunting, and human population growth are the leading causes of species extinction. Illegal trafficking is primarily for the pet trade. Sadly, the survival rate of animal contraband is as low as 15%. Birds are the most commonly trafficked creatures; it’s estimated that two to five million birds are illegally traded worldwide each year…..

Want to read the rest? Check out Lauren’s blog: Justin Plus Lauren

Travel Towards a Career.

Travel isn't magic, it isn't going to make you taller, it isn't going to make you funnier, it won't make you rich... but maybe it can help you find you

What if when we booked trips we didn't see them as debt inducing, we saw the cost as investment? What if we looked at the world as a classroom? What if we didn't label travel as a separate and different part of life? Then, what if we didn't label our home as 'the real world'? 

What if the whole world, our whole lives, all our experiences were important? What if travel wasn't 'just' for tourism? What if it was an investment in our future? 

Those are a lot of questions, maybe your next trip will just be a vacation on a beach, perhaps it will be going to visit friends in a new town. Even though we are more than the sum of our parts, our travels, no matter where they lead us, change us. All our experiences mould and change us, if we realise it's happening or not. 

Our co-founder, Nora found this out when she went to Nepal in 2007. She didn't go to intentionally change her life, she didn't even think it was possible. She just went and now more than 10 years later she credits that first big trip as one of the reasons AEI exists today. You can read more in an article she contributed to in Student Loan Hero

We tell ourselves all kinds of reasons we shouldn't travel: we don't have enough money, we haven't worked enough yet, we haven't travelled enough before a big trip....

We want to inspire people to invest in themselves and in their future. Travel maybe won't suddenly change your life, but what if it did? What if hundreds of tiny little travel experiences changed your life over the course of a few years? Why not take the chance? Why not book the ticket?

We'll help you change your life through travel. We'll help you invest in yourself and your future. We'll help you do this while you help animals, local communities and broader ecosystems. We did it and we will be with you every step of the way.  

Contact us to talk more about where you want to go and how we will get you there!
Apply to volunteer on an international animal program with AEI.

We are Elephant Friends, and friendly!

We are so proud to announce that we have been named one of the 215 elephant friendly travel companies by World Animal Protection!

That means when you volunteer with us you know for sure the elephant program is one that isn't just helping the animals, it's not hurting them. We couldn't agree more with World Animal Protection's elephant campaign, elephants are wildlife, they are not entertainers!  We are committed to elephants, to their protection and sanctuary. None of the elephants at our partnered sanctuaries will ever be chained up. They will never be part of elephant rides. They will always be given ongoing and consistent medical care. They will always be respected and loved for the gorgeous animals they are. 

If you love elephants, volunteer with them! Just make sure you volunteer on and visit centres that are certified elephant friendly by World Animal Protection!

Readers Digest says no to elephant...

rides!

Why? Because they asked us what tourist attractions were overrated. We thought about this idea at first. We love being tourists, that is why we started AEI. We love travel but we love giving back- the real reason we started AEI. 

We love going to new and exciting places and getting selfies with other tourists. We love meeting people at landmarks we had only dreamed of visiting. We love coming back and showing silly grins from silly friends exploring places that have been explored before, just not by us. We love being tourists. We love touring the world. So did we really think there were things that were overrated. Then we remembered the horrible torture of elephants and we remembered yes, of course there were things that were overrated- they were things that take advantage of animals, people and communities. 

Elephant rides help no one. Before elephants can be trained to have someone (or someones) on their back they have to be horribly broken as babies. We would explain it more, but it really is horrific. A quick search on google will keep you crying for days. After elephants are terribly broken, they can be dangerously shipped all over the countries they are living in. Sometimes on the back of trucks, sometimes on trains, always horrified and in danger of hurting themselves and others. Once they get to the attraction they will be working in they are typically not given enough water, socialisation or room to roam. They are chained when they are not boringly walking the same track over and over again with heavy loads on their backs. Do the elephants like this? Of course they don't. Do the communities that have elephant rides located close to them? Typically they don't either. They see these elephants languishing in the sun, in pain, bleeding and rocking due to boredom and torture. Not many communities we have talked to are excited to say they host exploitative acts. 

So why even have them anymore? Because people want to see elephants and don't know there is a better way! The better way is visiting and volunteering at elephant sanctuaries. Places were elephants are allowed to live in social groups with enough water, browse and space to walk, without chains and painful isolation. We help people volunteer in Thailand at such a beautiful and loving place, you can volunteer their, too! Check out our Elephant Sanctuary Volunteering page and write us a note if you are interested. 

There aren't too many things that we think are overrated when you travel, but we for sure think there is no good tourism when there is exploitation. 

Check our Readers Digest's article about overrated tourist attractions and see what we have to say about elephants!

What are you doing for spring break?

It's time to think about your last minute alt spring break plans. While others go to beaches or parties, did you know you could be an animal hero? Animal mission trips are open, available and affordable!

Will it be serious?

You are serious about having a meaningful experience - and we are committed to making that happen. There are so many benefits to partnering with AEI and volunteering with animal organizations overseas. International volunteer work provides opportunities for personal and professional development. These life changing experiences will let you add to your knowledge and skill set, while making an important contribution to the project you are helping. Whether you are a professional, student or an animal lover wanting to make a difference, AEI can help you find the experience you are looking for. AEI Experiences allow you to travel in a meaningful way – you are not just a tourist, you are part of the community,­­ supporting the important work being done by our placement partners. These international placements can provide skills needed for school credit or career development. They can help you make important decisions about your own life direction. And they let you explore a new country, become part of a team, and form lifelong friendships. Use your dedication and passion to help animals, while adding to your own personal knowledge and experience! 

Will it be fun?

Have fun while changing the world for the better! AEI helps you explore the world while doing what you love – helping animals. Volunteering is an amazing way to visit exotic locations and  learn about the culture, customs, and traditions of a new country. Bring along a family member or friend to create lifelong memories. Or make new friends as you join our team of animal lovers who are traveling the world while making a difference. You are passionate about enjoying life while having meaningful experiences. We are here to make that dream happen. Let us take care of the details - so you can have the adventure of a lifetime! 

It doesn't matter what you choose, when you travel with AEI, you'll have a life changing international animal experience!

alt spring break.jpg

Why We Will Never Volunteer With Kids.

When we started AEI we wanted to help people like you make the very best decisions while volunteering with animals. We visit all the programs, we look at release records, humane welfare standards must be high and we show preference to programs that have home stays- so you can live IN the community you are volunteering in.  We make sure the footprint you leave is as beneficial as possible- in the community and the environment. This is also the reason we don't have programs that have our volunteers working with kids. But why? Don't kids need help, too?

Did you know certain forms of volunteering can be harmful to the very people you’re trying to help? Did you know that 80% of children living in orphanages are not orphans and that volunteering at or giving to such places may be supporting the exploitation of children?
 

Working with children in institutions, such as orphanages or schools, is a job for local experts, not for volunteers who are just passing through. Children deserve more than good intentions, they need experienced, skilled and supervised caretakers and teachers  who know the local culture and language.

If you would like to support children, speak with a local child protection organization to see how you can help (we have a list of contacts for you). There are many ways you can support children without directly caring for them. Look for opportunities that involve empowering and transferring your skills to local staff to have a long-term  positive impacts, such as marketing or communications, website development, graphic design or fundraising (again, we can put you in touch with great organizations that would love for you to help).
 

We want to make sure we were always making a beneficial difference to the communities. We want to make sure that we do right by you, the community and the youngest and most vulnerable members of the community. For those reasons we decided to become a ChildSafe Supporter. We want to help protect children from abuse and exploitation and help our volunteers better protect children while abroad.

Do you have questions about ChildSafe or about how you can help the community without harming children? Just ask! That's why we are here!

Nora and Heather

PS: Are you a Floridian looking to volunteer locally? Check out All The Rooms for their blog about the best places to volunteer in Florida

How Do We Keep Volunteers Safe?

Safety is a top priority at Animal Experience International. Our amazing clients travel to more than 15 countries, helping animals in countless ways, making new friends and immersing themselves in new communities and cultures. We want to empower our clients to try these new experiences, knowing that we have ensured the best safety practices are in place.

We have personally been to all of the Placement Partner locations to inspect, participate, view and judge the transportation, activities, humane animal care, volunteer care and living conditions. We have met the people you will be staying with, working with and adventuring with our placement partners. AEI Experiences are only made official once we are satisfied that they are safe, ethical and responsible placements. AEI has signed agreements with our partners to ensure they will provide assistance in the unlikely event of an emergency or crisis, and will help you find appropriate medical care if needed.

Our volunteer coordinator emails with all of our Placement Partners at least once a week, some of them once a day! This close relationship benefits everyone. We can reach our contacts quickly if needed, we can be advised of any changes to the programs and we can give our partners feedback that we get from our volunteers. Each of our Placement Partners has established international volunteer programs, with excellent safety records. The volunteers go through applications and interviews to participate in the placement, and AEI clients sign agreements to follow rules and procedures outlined by AEI. This helps to ensure a safe and friendly volunteer environment where any acts of violence, harassment or dangerous behaviour (towards people or animals) can result in dismissal from the placement.

As a volunteer, you will be met at the airport by a representative from the organization, and taken directly to your placement. During your stay you will be living either on-site, or in the community in a pre-approved hostel or home-stay. At the end of your trip, you will be returned to the airport for your flight home. This provides a continuous duty of care, and minimizes the risk of you getting into trouble in an unfamiliar country. You are part of the group from the very beginning!

AEI provides you with up to $500,000 in travel health insurance through the International Volunteer Card - insurance specifically for “voluntourists”. The Volunteer Card has the added bonus of a 24 hour emergency support line, manned by people who specialize in travel emergencies who can offer you advice and assistance no matter where you are. You will be provided with a detailed safety procedure manual explaining how to arrange emergency medical evacuation, and payment to a hospital or facility that requests upfront payment.

We also provide you with travel manuals that give practical advice on everything from travel visas, staying safe, health concerns, and what to pack, to how to deal with culture shock - these manuals are guidebooks specifically designed for you and your exact adventure. We believe that the more prepared you are, the safer and more enjoyable your experience will be.

AEI also offers a book, Traveling Without Baggage (written by our volunteer coordinator), about keeping safe while traveling. This book is available for purchase as an e-book or a printed version can be sent to you. We’re sure all authors think their book is important, but we really believe travelers will benefit from this short book – in terms of both physical and mental health.

As you can see, your safety is very important to us at Animal Experience International and to our Placement Partners. Despite all the safe guards that are in place, safety ultimately comes down to the individual. This is a trip that you will be taking on your own, so we encourage all of our volunteers to be smart, not to take unnecessary risks, and to trust their gut! Guts always know. If something feels unsafe, it probably is, so be empowered to say no if needed and trust yourself. As in all things in life, there are no guarantees that nothing bad will happen - but we try our very best to stack the deck to ensure you will have a safe trip and a positive, life- changing experience.

If you would like more information or clarification about safety policies and procedures, please don’t hesitate to ask. That’s why we are here!

Nora and Heather.