From Volunteering Experience to Dream Job

We had the opportunity to interview Molly O’Ray. She is a young researcher who is deeply passionate by nature and talks with us about the lessons she learned on her way to her dream job.

We all have something that we are passionate about. It might be that you love protecting the environment, helping people, writing or maybe teaching. But are you really doing something to pursue those dreams and dedicate your time to what really makes you happy? Have you already found the job of your dreams?

The slogan that identifies our CEO, Pascal Christiaens, is one of the wiser quotes of Confucius:  “Choose the job you love, and you will never have to work in your life”.  So, in this opportunity we would like to know if you know what the job of your dreams is and if you are doing your part to make it true.

For this topic, we had the opportunity to interview Molly O’Ray. She is a young researcher who is deeply passionate by nature. She just turned 22 and has a lot to say about environmental conservation and it was precisely her volunteer experience what helped her to find her dream career.

L: Hello Molly, thank you for taking the time to participate in this interview. We are convinced that your experience is worth to be shared. So, we would like to get to know more about it. You just turned 22 and have done so many things! What does it feel like?

M: It’s awesome! I realized that when I work within my passion for environmental conservation I feel the happiest person, particularly when that work is so hands on as the work I got to do in Alouatta Sactuary in Panama.

Working a job that requires you to be outside more than you are inside is a magical thing that does exist for those who seek it.

the job of your dreams     the job of your dreams

L: How did you make the decision to volunteer in Panama?

M: It was not related specifically to the location but to the volunteer organization. I personally did not know so much about Panama before I lived there. It was mostly related to the opportunity to get to work on my passion.

Before working in Panama, I worked on a project in Indonesia, Borneo focused on protecting rainforest lands and orangutan habitats. After this experience I realized how passionate I was about forest conservation and what it could mean for habitat and livelihood protection for those who are reliant on forest systems.

I started looking for jobs to work in Primate Conservation because I’m most passionate about protecting habitats for primates and I am also mostly motivated to protecting areas and marginalized people that have been affected for social issues.

After some research, I came across Alouatta Sanctuary. I found this adventure and it sounded awesome! Almost too good to be true!

They were one of the very few places that do primate conservation work and hire people who haven’t been working on the field for 10 years or so. Most places hire people with many years of experience but it’s hard to get these jobs if you can’t get the experience.

They have people who have been working on the field for very long time but they also hire people who are completely passionate and driven about working on the field. They want to give the chance to young people to be leaders of conservation in the future.

I’m really grateful for that, it was a great experience and it was affordable. So for someone like me who has just been graduated from the university, it was a really good chance and I was able to do that and not feeling too stressed about the money I was spending.

It is one of the only projects that accept students with limited animal handling and field experience while also being financially feasible for people who are young and driven to gain experience and make a difference.

Molly and a couple of monkeys

L: What did you learn on your way to find the job of your dreams?

M: I learned it is important to surround yourself with other passionate people even if you don’t see eye to eye on everything; in fact it’s better if you don’t, so that your ideas are challenged and your perspectives can grow.

I learned that I loved carrying out field work more than anything and being challenged so Alouatta was the perfect place to be.

What I also learned that could be helpful to others is that a positive attitude and a good sense of humor are the most important qualities to take with you into new jobs, volunteer opportunities or any other experiences. The people who thrived at Alouatta and other volunteer trips I’ve been on were able to laugh off the little things and see the opportunity for personal growth in the bigger stuff. It’s amazing what a difference keeping a positive attitude can make in what you are able to take away from experiences.

The ability to stay optimistic in the face of challenges can lead to major self-discovery, growth and job references as well!

From a personal perspective, I learned that I thrived while living away from civilization as long as there were others around to keep me company, even if those others were mostly monkeys.

the job of your dreams     the job of your dreams

L: What are you working with now?

M: Currently I am the Director of Research and Communications which is where my passion lies. I am also working as the Media and Outreach Intern for Southeast Alaska Conservation Council in Juneau, Alaska for the summer as well.

L: How a volunteer experience such as Alouatta Sanctuary opened the doors for you to work in Alaska?

M: I was qualified for the job I am working now for my past experiences with fundraising and outreach in terms of skills but many others have these skills in common with me. I was hired for my job in Alaska because I was told I have a passion which cannot be taught and while many others also have this passion as well, the fact that I could demonstrate turning this passion into action by my work on the ground in Indonesia and on the ground in Panama with Alouatta Sanctuary is what set me apart from the pack.

If you have a passion for something, it is important not to just simply talk about this passion but get out there and actual demonstrate that passion.

If that passion relates in any way to conservation, forests, environmental education, or animals then get to Alouatta Sanctuary specifically for the experience of a life time! You’ll be glad you did!

L: We thank Molly O’Ray for an in-depth and interesting interview about how she found the job of her dreams and you guys for reading this post.  Stay tuned for more interesting stories and don’t forget to spread the word about these fascinating projects!

Written By
More from Laura
A Billy Bus Ride through Uganda!
Carol Michell and the Billy bus in Uganda. Carol was touched by...
Read More
Join the Conversation


  1. Thank you very much for the good work you are doing,it was encouraging reading through the post.
    Though I have a question,I operate a non profit organization in Kenya called:PEOPLE AGAINST POVERTY(PAPOW ) we need Volunteers here in Kenya who can teach computer skills to mostly youth out of school so that the youth be empowered with I.T skills,Assist in Anti-jigger campaigns & treatments e.t.c how can your organization help us get volunteers?
    Thank you.
    Josephato C.Chibai
    Executive Director PAPOW

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply