Can I Volunteer for a Week While I’m on Vacation?
Maybe. Depends on how bad you want it and what you are willing to do to make your dream come true.
3 months has always been our minimum term for volunteers but there are a lot of people who just can’t pack up and leave their real lives for three months. Eco vacations are popular, but due to the dangerous nature of the work we do, we have never felt like we could fully prepare someone in just a week, to do anything meaningful while they were here. Now we think we can and are doing a test pilot program in September of 2016. Here’s why:
Our volunteers have to take and pass more than fifty classes as they progress through our levels of training and responsibility. We launched those classes in a learning management system in May that make the exact same classes available to anyone who wants to see if they have what it takes to work with lions, tigers and other big cats. ZooCollege.com is $9.00 a month so people can learn at their own pace. We have had two students who completed the entire course in a month, so it only cost them $9.00 total. We will be raising that price, as this was a beta to make sure all the material was understandable and that all of the tests were automatically graded, allowing students to progress.
So here’s the deal:
This deal will only be offered to graduates of ZooCollege.com
We will offer limited spots for week long volunteers on site at Big Cat Rescue. The daily schedule is below. In addition, one evening during the week you will have dinner with Founder Carole and her husband Howard, our CFO.
Monday arrive at 8am for Orientation and to re take some of the more important classes to ensure your safety and that of our cats. Get a quick golf cart over view of the sanctuary to get your bearings and have some playtime in the Kitten Cabana with our Foster Kittens, then go off site for lunch. The afternoon will include more classes and the opportunity to make enrichment for the cats and go with the keepers who hand it out. You are done by 5pm and free to return to your accommodations.
Tuesday arrive at 8am and follow along on one of our feeding routes and watch the cats get fed. Help clean up in food prep after feeding. Shadow a keeper for morning cleaning with the cats. Go to lunch from 12 -2. Help backup one of our General tours. Shadow the handing out of afternoon Meds. Help with afternoon chores before attending our evening lecture with vegan food included at 7pm. Lectures vary but include topics such as Bobcat rehab, legislative issues revolving around protecting cats, work we are doing to save cats in the wild, how to stay safe online, how to improve your public speaking and other great topics.
Wednesday arrive at 8am and follow along on one of our feeding routes and watch the cats get fed. Help clean up in food prep after feeding. Shadow a keeper for morning cleaning with the cats. Go to lunch from 12 -2. Help backup one of our General tours. Help with afternoon chores. At 6pm meet with the enrichment committee to make enrichment projects.
Thursday arrive at 8am and follow along on one of our feeding routes and watch the cats get fed. Help clean up in food prep after feeding. Work with our folks on some projects for the cats. Go to lunch, Participant in enrichment, more projects, Help with afternoon chores and food prep for the next day. We are closed to the public on Thursdays, so you will see a lot more of the behind the scenes work. It is also the day we move cats to and from our two vacation areas, so that’s always exciting.
Friday arrive at 8am. You will be following along with our Feeding and Keeper Tours from 9am – 12 pm. During this tour you will see how we do Operant training with our cats. Go to Lunch, Work with the keepers on projects till time for afternoon chores.
Saturday is optional. You are free to enjoy some other sites in Tampa or attend the Feeding and Keeper Tours. It will be a half-day and you are free to go after the Keeper tour returns to the gift shop.
What Would You Pay for Such an Adventure?
We have no idea, but we know what it will cost us, to make sure that you get this up close experience, because we have to make sure that you are always accompanied by someone who knows the ropes. The itinerary above is 49 hours and we charge $125.00 an hour for a private tour, so if we just assigned private tours for those hours, instead of working you into our daily life, we would charge $6,125. for the week. In the future, we might charge that, but this is a test pilot program, so we are offering this interactive week for $3000.00 if you don’t need housing, and $4000.00 if you want to bunk in one of our intern houses.
Additional requirements are that you must have graduated ZooCollege.com before applying. As stated above though, we know that it’s possible to pass the program in just one month, so that’s just $9. You would also have to pay for a background check which is $50. You will be responsible for your own food and transportation. There are a number of limitations physically too, as this is hard work, so you need to be able to be on your feet all day, in 90-95 degree heat, and carry 60 lbs of food, poo or dirt. This work isn’t for sissies. You will not be allowed to smoke, drink or use mind altering drugs (even prescription) for the week. You can’t bring your kids or pets. You can bring a friend, if they pay the same rate, and they do not have to pass ZooCollege.com as long as they take the classes once they get here and stay with you at all times. You absolutely cannot touch the cats. It’s dangerous and rude to touch a cat who would never allow you to do such a thing if they were free.
Interested in a Week that Will Change Your Life?
Start by signing up for ZooCollege.com As soon as you take the last test and pass it you will get an email with the invitation to fill out the application for our first Volunteer Vacation at Big Cat Rescue. The Zoo College courses can be taken as quickly as you like, as long as you pass the tests, but you have to take the classes in order, so you can’t just skip to the end. I’ll warn you, the Map Test is the hardest test, because you have to know where the cats live on site to pass with at least an 80%, but after that it gets easier.
See you on the other side!
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