Volunteer Reflection by Nene Haggar
My experience at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue was ineffable, but I hope to have done my best in conveying such an adventure. In the meantime- thank you Sanaga-Yong for the support, love and constant reminder about the most important things in life.
Sanaga-Yong gave me a home, a home among the trees where the melody of wildlife greeted my existence every passing day. It was one of simplicity and disconnection allowing me to focus on my true intentions for being in Cameroon- the chimpanzees. They were my purpose for venturing to Sanaga-Yong but what I was unaware of was how quickly they would steal my heart and become my world. From dusk to dawn and with every breath, my days revolved around them and nor was I alone in this. I worked alongside devoted individuals who helped me nurture the chimps. From washing and preparing the substance that would provide them with life to contriving, creating and implementing activities to enrich it, our hours were filled with tasks that had to be achieved to ensure the chimps were of optimal physical and mental health.
Though days were tough and the work was strenuous, the reward of living among our cousins greatly outweighed those difficult times. Such rewards enriched my life with eternal memories. Some were memories of a bittersweet feeling, as I became a mother to the motherless. Others were memories of contentment after spending countless hours in mirthful laughter with the chimps. I was gifted with a blissful myriad of memories that will walk with me forever from Sanaga-Yong, including my most treasured ones- those that were captured in moments of stillness while I would sit and watch the chimps.
During the stillness, I saw companionship in its true form through unbreakable bonds shared between the chimps like that of Boumba and Aaron; I saw friends reassure one another during periods of distress, offering comfort and embracing each other in the same way we do; I observed immeasurable examples of kindness and compassion including that of a male chimp named Gabby who split his lemon into two, sharing the other half with a female named Niete who had hers taken from her; I watched them express incredible power and agility through formidable displays as their hairs stand on end while they stamp their feet and let out booming vocalizations, some dragging branches and others throwing rocks; I witnessed empowered women banding together during times of need suchlike those in Jacks group who would chase away pesky males; I saw how endowed with intelligence they were utilizing all resources within their surrounding- all of which taught me everlasting lessons.
Sanaga-Yong showed me how we are more alike chimpanzees then we are different. I learnt that just like us, each chimp has an individual personality and is a unique being. Some I bonded with more then others but even so, I felt so much affection and respect for every one of them. The chimps became my life compelling me to keep them safe because you always do everything in your power to protect those you love.
As it turned out, Sanaga-Yong gave me more then just a home. They gave me a life changing experience with undying memories that I will always cherish along with purpose and an opportunity to make a real difference in the world. Sanaga-Yong made me one of the wealthiest people on this planet and I can’t thank them enough for that.
Written by Nene Haggar, Volunteer November 2019 – February 2020