Animal Experience International, or AEI, is a B Corporation that connects volunteers with opportunities to help animals around the world. Established and coordinated by Dr Heather Reid and Nora Livingstone, AEI aims to match clients with programs at animal sanctuaries, hospitals, and research centres. Whether you have a background in veterinary care or you’re an average person looking to volunteer your time to help animals, AEI has the program for you.
AEI visits and tests every placement experience personally, so you don’t have to worry about the legitimacy of your volunteer trip. Every volunteer makes a great impact, and every program makes a meaningful difference. Both Heather and Nora ensure that volunteers are matched with appropriate projects, according to their interests and background. You don’t need to have any past experience or training for many of their trips. If you love animals, you can book a volunteering journey with AEI.
As a B Corporation, AEI meets and exceeds the rigorous guidelines of accountability, transparency, and both social and environmental practices. In 2014 and 2015, AEI was named the “Best for the World”, scoring in the top 10% of all B Corps for overall impact. AEI makes sustainable and long-term connections with only the best animal-related organizations in the world. Your fees include a travel manual relating specifically to your placement, travel medical insurance, and carbon credits to offset 3 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
I volunteered with AEI in March 2016 on an expedition to the Great Rift Valley in Kenya. From time to time, AEI runs group expeditions and I was fortunate enough to travel with Nora, the leader of this adventure. Leading up to the trip, I was in constant communication with Nora as she assisted in all aspects of my booking and answered any questions that I had. She arranged every detail of the volunteer experience, including my vegan meals, comfortable accommodations at the wildlife conservancy, and even a few once-in-a-lifetime surprises along the way.
Without AEI, I would have never participated in field monitoring projects to help the endangered Rothschild giraffes at the conservancy. We surveyed the wild bird population at Lake Elmenteita, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our group aided in anti-poaching efforts by removing wire snares from the property, with each snare representing the life of an animal. We went on daily game drives, spotting numerous African animals like giraffes, zebra, baboons, and buffalo. There were rare experiences that I never imagined, such as searching for lions during a night safari and sleeping in an outdoor tree house. During our field monitoring project, we discovered baby giraffes to add to their reference catalogue, so we each got to name one of them.
Animal Experience International provides the means to travel to far flung destinations, like Kenya, to give back in a meaningful and positive way. Every detail is perfectly planned and completely accessible to the average person. I just had to show up with a willingness to contribute to the program. This volunteer experience was the best combination of work and fun, and work that was fun. I’ll remember this experience for the rest of my life, and I’m already dreaming about my next adventure with AEI.
To learn more about Animal Experience International, you can click here.
Lauren Yakiwchuk is a Canadian travel blogger who loves outdoor adventures and exploring nature. She writes about eco-friendly travel, responsible wildlife tourism, and where to find the best vegan meals around the world.