Shamwari Conservation Experience

Meet Roy, our Social Media Co-ordinator!

My name is Roy van Gompel and I am 25 years old. I am the Social Media Coordinator for the Shamwari Conservation Experience and have loved this position since October 2018.

I was born in the Netherlands and the first time I came over to South Africa and the Shamwari Conservation Experience was almost 3 years ago in May and June of 2016. I had just graduated as a geography teacher for high schools, and I wanted to take a break before I started working. I joined the Shamwari Conservation Experience for 7 weeks as a volunteer, just like so many, but little did I know that this would change my life completely. I fell in love with the country and the project and couldn’t stay away from this magical place.

I booked my second stay immediately after my return home. Ending up in the hospital after a nasty spider bite didn’t stop me from going back to the place I fell in love with. My second stay obviously was quite a bit longer than my first one, and I ended up staying here for the full 3 months a visitor’s visa will allow you. It was this stay that made my desire to be here even stronger, as this was the moment I started to be more involved in the program, and started to help them with little things. During my stay, Charlotte Cornwallis, the Social Media Coordinator that worked here for years, left for a new challenge. I jumped in to help with taking pictures and writing stories for to post on the different social media platforms. Everyone around me could see how much I loved doing this and they recommended me to do my FGASA (field guide training) to find a way into South Africa somehow.

So at the end of 2017 I did my FGASA field guide training at Ulovane located at Amakhala, the neighbouring reserve of Shamwari, as there was no field guide training at Shamwari at that time. It was intense hard work for those 10 weeks to learn as much as possible and to absorb everything I possibly could. I returned to Shamwari as a volunteer for 2 more weeks before my visa once again expired, to see if it was possible for me to find a position there. It was this moment when it all started to develop.

I contacted Quinton Gillson, to find out how I could help and what I needed to do for that. We reached an agreement and my process of getting the right visas started. I worked on a volunteering visa at home for almost a year, mailing back and forth with every single person, agency, etc. you can think of. After almost a year it looked like I finally had a breakthrough as all my documents got sent through the embassy and ended up at the final person that was going to approve my visa; at least that was what I thought. But then I received a phone call that they declined it, because we couldn’t get the right document that was overlooked by all the others before…. A horrible day. I got back to Quinton and we tried everything, but it didn’t work. This is sadly the reason why we are still trying everything we can, but so far I am only able to come on extended visitor’s visas.

We have no idea how long this will work, and I have no idea how long I can help this amazing team and program with everything they do. And I will keep fighting for every extra month I can be here and be part of the team until there is nothing left to do.

I don’t know if I will ever meet you here at the Shamwari Conservation Experience, but I surely hope we do meet. I wish everyone that is going to be part of our program an amazing time and I hope this will change your life just as it did mine.

Roy van Gompel

Roy van Gompel