Family volunteering with bears in Romania

“A week of volunteering at superb bear rescue sanctuary, just south of Brasov. Stay in city centre, so plenty to do in between project work. Minimum age twelve. ”

Highlights

Work at bear sanctuary near Brasov | Feeding and monitoring bears | Over eighty bears to care for | Carpathian Mountains | Brasov city | Important conservation work in Romania | Visit to Dracula's Castle

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Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
SINGLE USE PLASTIC-FREE:
Our Destination Manager volunteered at the bear sanctuary in Romania for 3 months in 2009. She was sad to see a large amount of litter strewn across the country and when she tried to recycle her household waste, there were no facilities available.
Not much has changed today and recycling in Romania is still not common place. In light of this, the bear sanctuary that this project takes place in wants to make a difference where it comes to eliminating plastics and recycling its waste - something that makes it stand apart.
BAGS & SHOPPING:
We provide all volunteers with cloth bags that they can use to do their shopping, avoiding the need for using plastic bags in shops. We encourage volunteers to do as much shopping as they can in a local produce market, located just 4 minutes' walk from the accommodation. This means that they can avoid pre-packaged fresh items that are normally purchased in supermarkets, whilst investing in the local community. This is communicated pre-departure and once in-country.
PRESERVING FOOD:
We no longer provide cling film or sandwich bags in the volunteer accommodation. Instead, we have purchased glass containers for food storage in the accommodation, and reusable tupperware containers for lunchboxes.
IN THE ROOMS:
Items that are provided in the accommodation, such as cleaning products and hand soap are bought in large refill containers, rather than lots of little containers. We believe that this will reduce the amount of plastic in circulation. There are no single use plastic shampoo bottles, soaps etc in the accommodation.
WATER BOTTLES:
We request that volunteers do not buy single use plastic water bottles, and ask that they bring a reusable bottle with them to Romania. This is communicated pre-departure and once in-country.
Clean drinking water is provided both in the accommodation and at the bear sanctuary.
We are also looking into purchasing hydro flasks for all volunteers so that they can choose to take hot or cold beverages out with them, avoiding the need to purchase water bottles or coffee on the go.
STICKING POINT:
The bear sanctuary itself relies on local supermarkets to donate food for the bears. The food that is provided is fresh produce which has passed its sell by date. Currently some of this comes in plastic wrapping which the sanctuary has little control over given that they rely on the food donated. The bear sanctuary does all that it can to ensure the plastic packaging from the supermarket food is recycled. As recycling facilities are not widely available in Romania, the sanctuary pays a company to come and take away the waste for recycling. It isnѝt perfect but they are doing what they can to eliminate food waste by giving unsellable produce to the bears, and dispose of the packaging in a way that no consumer or supermarket currently does as standard in the country.
CHANGE MAKING:
As a result of this campaign led by Uneasy no settle, we got in touch with the supplier who handles our t-shirt distribution to talk about packaging. They used to send out all our T-shirts in a plastic envelope - upon our suggestion they have agreed to stop putting the t-shirts in plastic wallets and were really pleased to be able to help reduce single use plastic in some way. Thank you to Uneasy no settle for giving us the motivation to ask for this - a question which would have been met with a lack of comprehension a few years ago!
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Family volunteering with bears in Romania

Environment

Our placements are designed to immerse you in a different culture, living and working with local people. There’s plenty to gain personally from this challenge – a sense of achievement, broader horizons and some wonderful memories. But we make sure that local people, the environment and wildlife benefit too.

Supporting local wildlife- it almost goes without explanation to state how strongly this project supports local wildlife. The staff at the sanctuary can very rarely say no to animals that need to be taken care of, and as such you will find some very happy dogs can also call the sanctuary home. The educational emphasis on the sanctuary is important, as it helps children from this area of the world to understand the importance of caring for wildlife and in particular the bears.

Environment - Our company takes an environmentally responsible attitude towards recycling and reusing of waste products. We also offset carbon emissions in our office (gas, electricity, business mileage) and encourage all participants to offset their flight emissions via a carbon offset scheme run in conjunction with Tree Aid. We also offer the option of traveling there by train to cut down on carbon emissions. Our volunteers are given a pre-departure briefing where they are encouraged to minimise waste and to live in a way that will not have a detrimental effect on the country. This extends to not wasting water or electricity.

About the bear sanctuary - the project is located at a sanctuary, where these bears can live out their days in a location as close to the the wild as possible. Volunteers are not allowed to interact with the bears as this can hinder their rehabilitation. Currently there are 80 bears calling this place home and who have been successfully rehabilitated into the sanctuary.

Community

Meeting local needs - The whole project is geared towards helping the local community. Romania is not wealthy and institutions like the bear sanctuary rely on volunteers. We have been running programmes in this area since 1999 and have long-standing relationships with local people. This means we have a good idea of where help is needed, and can ensure volunteers make a real contribution.

The project also helps the local economy. Our participants spend money on food and leisure; we pay rent and employ a local Romanian as our representative. In addition, we donate money regularly to the various projects in response to their needs.

Cultural sensitivity - Our pre-departure briefing includes a special session entitled ‘Responsible Tourism’ where we discuss cultural differences and sensitivities as well as advising volunteers on appropriate conduct. People a briefed on what is considered polite in terms of eating, greeting and dressing. It is encouraged that all volunteers learn some Romanian prior to departure, and they get a helping hand whilst out there as well.

1 Reviews of Family volunteering with bears in Romania

5 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 08 Aug 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


I think we will all remember watching the cubs not so gently nursing with their mom; "bread bear" running out at feeding time to stealthily take a loaf of bread
and scurry back into the bushes while other bears happily ate the other food together; the mucky, fun mess of making bear ice cream; just watching the bears be bears.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Be prepared to get dirty and smell the expired food (but you'll get used to it). Bring an apron and rubber gloves and don't bring nice clothes. Be ready to go with the flow and take time to relax and observe the bears when there is a lull in your duties. Have fun!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Yes! The food is diverted from landfill or waste. The bears are lovingly and ecologically/responsibly cared for in as natural an environment as possible given
their pasts in captivity. And the operator and sanctuary employees are all locals.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Excellent. A great, unique program that can only be experienced in Romania at this sanctuary. And a fulfilling and mutually reciprocal volunteer experience:
we got as much satisfaction and enjoyment out of the experience of helping the bears and the sanctuary as they hopefully benefited from our work. It's very
fun!

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