Volunteering in Freetown

As one member of our community discovered, taking on a volunteering role can be a great way to develop new skills, build networks and gain unique insights into a host country.

Occupation unknown

When she moved to Sierra Leone, HEINEKEN expat partner Lauren Brant was unsure about how she would occupy herself. “My academic background is psychology and prior to our move to Freetown, I had been working in customer service in Amsterdam,” says Lauren. “I was looking to get into the NGO or non-profit sector and I sent tonnes of emails but I never did find a job. Eventually I decided to use my time to study but I was also lucky to find a very fulfilling, volunteering role at a Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary.”

An animal lover

“I love animals. They’ve always been a big part of my life. I actually wanted to study zoology more than psychology at university. So to get a chance to work alongside and support the vets and other staff at the sanctuary, and obviously to see the chimpanzees up close all the time, was just an incredible experience,” says Lauren, who returned to Amsterdam in 2022 after five years in Sierra Leone.

Developing new skills

“My official role at the sanctuary was Guardian Program Manager, which involved building fundraising campaigns and compiling reports for over 400 donors. But I had a chance to develop a range of other skills. For example, I was also in charge of content creation, communications and photography – I think being a wildlife photographer would definitely be my dream career! The job also benefited me in so many other ways. I expanded my network. I also learned a lot about Sierra Leone – the people, the culture, the politics.”

The path taken

“There are so many incredible organisations and projects going on in Freetown and throughout the country. So it would have been an invaluable experience to have joined one of those. But I also wouldn’t trade my experiences at Tacugama for anything. Who knows how different life would have been if I’d had success with one of those emails I sent! But I’m incredibly grateful for the once in a lifetime opportunity I had at Tacugama and all the incredible people I met along the way!”

Photo: Lauren (left) with primatologist Dr Jane Goodall


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