Heather Topple has signed up for International Student Volunteers (ISV), who have arranged over 2.5 million hours of volunteer time over the last 30 years. “Basically they send students to a bunch of different countries for 2-4 weeks.” Said Heather, “We go and volunteer, building houses, helping kids learn English in schools, we help with wildlife rehabilitation, things like that.” Heather plans be travel either to Thailand or South Africa, which plays into her fund raising efforts.
“Either way if I’m in Thailand or South Africa I’ll be working with elephants, so that works.” Said Heather, referring to her yarn elephants, the tokens of appreciation she gives to those who donate. “Also, elephants are hugely adorable, especially when they’re small and crocheted.”
While ISV has been in operation for approximately 30 years, it was in 2002 when they started offering a combination volunteer and adventure travel itinerary. After a period of volunteering, there is time set aside for the participants to interact with and enjoy their time in a more touristic manner. “The final two weeks is an adventure tour.” Said Heather, listing off the different possibilities for amusement. “There’s things like snorkeling, sea kayaking, feeding and bathing elephants, jungle trek…”
The volunteering trips are available to university students, high schoolers, or anyone interested in making a difference. Heather hasn’t been a big traveller, and said as much when asked if she had flown very far before. “Not really – I’ve been do Disney world, that’s about as close as I would have gotten so far.”
It certainly will be different than Disney, as Heather explained the immersive quality to her up-and-coming trip. “You stay with a host family. If you don’t speak the language you learn very quickly how to sign language with them. A lot of grunting, pointing and ridiculous facial expressions.”
Anyone looking to support Heather’s trip can go onto her fund raising website, indiegogo.com/operation-elephant . She’s got a lot of stitching left to go, and any support is appreciated. “I’m about five percent of the way there now, so I’m off to a good start.”