Animal Experience International (AEI) makes sure animals are being served and humans are treated justly while people travel and volunteer with local community groups. For founder Nora Livingstone it’s important to work intensively with local communities together and integrate their work in proven successful local strategies.
You are a non-profit and non-governmental organization. How do international volunteers and your communities support your social projects?
We are a certified B Corp! B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. In 2014 and 2015 we have been honored by being named the Best FOR the World, by scoring in the top 10% of all B Corps for Overall Impact (combined social and environmental) and again for Environmental Impact!
Volunteers stay with host families during their volunteer stay. Why do you think it’s important for volunteers and families to get connected?
AEI believes that home stays offer you the best experience during your time in Cuba by allowing you to save money, while providing you with an easy way to integrate into Cuban culture. It also is a wonderful way to help inspire the local economy as we pay better than fair trade wages to the families you will be staying with!
In your “Bat Conservation” Volunteer Program, volunteers learn all about bats and their habits. Please describe the social impact of volunteers at your project site.
Bats in Cuba has been an amazing program to be part of. We went from hoping we could get into National Parks to having the local community love bats so much they had their first ever, annual Bat Festival in 2014!! We have ongoing educational cooperation with the universities in Cuba and bat biologists around the world are learning about these endemic and beautiful species.
The volunteers aren’t just global advocates for bats and other pollinators, they are also showing people around the world that Cuba is more than just an All Inclusive Resort country.
Why is an international understanding and a cross cultural exchange so important to you?
Because we don’t know all the answers! We refuse to take management roles at these centers as we are not local and can not understand the local cultural and social lenses that leads to the systemic conservation problems unique to each community.
We support the Placement Partners by supporting their proven successful local strategies.
AEI understands that North American solutions only work in North American contexts. During site visits and during constant and consistent follow ups we ensure our Placement Partners’ employees are local to the community, are given safe work and they are given fair (and reliable) wages. Local solutions to local conservation problems! Placement Partners are fully autonomous from AEI, however there is mutual understanding that donations will be used to continue the improvement the social and environmental condition of the communities these Placement Partners serve and reside in.
Tip: Why would you recommend a volunteer to leave his comfort zone and volunteer abroad?
Growth happens outside your comfort zone.
It is MUCH more comfortable in your own bed but then you will never see the world. And what better way to see the world than to serve the world? Volunteering gives you access to things you never thought you would see, or maybe you don’t even know exist. Learning something new from a different perspective from a new friend… what could be better?
You are interested and you want to apply for the “Bat Conservation” volunteer program? Click here and apply now. AEI is waiting for your application!