The sun has finally sunk below the horizon, and hundreds of baby sea turtles emerge from their sandy nest ready to embark on possibly the most dangerous quest of their lives. Make it to the sea. Hit foam and swim for it. They flop their tiny bodies forward as fast as their flippers can carry them.
Only many won’t make it — some hatchlings become confused by artificial light, go the wrong direction and die from dehydration.
Others get picked off by waiting predators such as raccoons, seabirds and large fish. Even before hatching, poachers may try to lift the eggs from the nest.
The fight for survival. It happens somewhere everyday for other endangered animals and plant habitats, but this fight may not be as obvious to the eye as a scrambling baby turtle. Human exploitation of natural resources and expansion of cities can wreak havoc on even the most mature plant and animal communities.
That’s where environmental volunteer organizations step in. These conservation-minded groups, often run with limited funding, try to undo man-made environmental damage, or in the least, give mother nature a boost. Ecotravellers Finland is one such organization.
From the city of Helsinki, Ecotravellers Finland organizes environmental and animal conservation projects in locations worldwide. Volunteers can choose among projects of varying duration, and take part in a variety of tasks to support local habitats and species in places such as Italy, Finland, the Caribbean, Thailand, and the Galapagos Islands.
Ecotravellers also offers programs to adopt a sea turtle or a project if you would like to help, but cannot join as a volunteer.
When choosing a program to work with, it’s important to know, for example, whether an organization enjoys a good reputation, and if their activity is suitable for International volunteers, explains company owner Marjut Valtanen. “In my opinion, projects should cover educational aspects as well, and there is always the social atmosphere to consider.”
Once enrolled, Ecotravellers members receive advice and coaching about their program of choice, and some logistical support. Mangrove rehabilitation, forest conservation, wildlife gardening, and sea turtle conservation are a few currently listed projects.
Ecotravellers Finland donates 80% or more of their proceeds to the local non-governmental organizations or small environmental groups they work with. To expand volunteering opportunities, Valtanen welcomes collaboration and encourages other environmental organizations to list their projects on the Ecotravellers website, available in Finnish and English.
“For me, the best part about volunteering is to be able to help animals and nature. You see the results of your work very easily and animals are so generous with their love to anyone who takes care of them,” says Valtanen. Marjut has volunteered in places such as Thailand, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, Italy, Australia, and Ecuador.
To learn more about volunteering with Ecotravellers Finland, visit the website and read Marjut’s newsletter.