From Volunteer to Founder of Charity!

In 2010, Simon Jones booked on a 6 week volunteer programme through Worldwide Experience at Kariega Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Little did he know it would be quite the life changing experience it turned out to be! On the 2nd April 2010, Simon and his wife left the shores of the UK for what they thought would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend an extended period living and breathing wildlife conservation. The 6 weeks was a great experience, both from the perspective of experiencing some of Africa’s most iconic wildlife and also learning about conservation practices where it matters most, on the ground. There were many highlights of the trip, including almost daily sightings of the lion pride, which at the time included four two month old cubs, and sitting amongst the heard of elephants trying to identify the individuals by markings on their ears (which is harder than it sounds!). But for Simon, a self-confessed lover of rhinos, the highlight was seeing a little white rhino calf at just one week old. “It was fascinating to watch the little newborn try and keep up with his Mum as she grazed – a truly heart melting experience” Simon commented.
All too soon the 6 weeks were over, and it was time to head back to the real world and to real life, which for Simon was working in an office for American Express. But a fire inside had been lit and it was not going to be put out easily. It was 2 years later, in March 2012 that tragedy struck at Kariega. Three rhinos were poached in one horrific attack. One bull didn’t survive the night, a second bull, Themba, survived for 24 days before succumbing to his injuries, but Thandi, a rhino cow, miraculously survived her horrific injuries.
Fuelled by his love of rhinos, an emotional attachment to Kariega and Thandi (Simon had pictures of Thandi from his time at Kariega), and the burning desire to make a difference in the fight to stop the level of poaching threatening the very existence of the rhino on our planet, Simon was compelled to act.
Simon founded a UK based NGO called Helping Rhinos. The charity told the story of Thandi, bringing a greater awareness to people around the world of the threats to rhinos. Very quickly Helping Rhinos grew, and soon the organisation was working with key conservation projects across Africa, including the Black Mambas, South Africa’s all female anti-poaching unit, the Zululand Rhino Orphanage and Ol Pejeta
Conservancy in Kenya. Fast forward to 2019 and Simon is now dedicated to Helping Rhinos having long since left the corporate world behind. Helping Rhinos has raised close to £1,000,000, is registered in the UK and the US, and the organisation is playing a vital role in the protection of rhinos in their natural habitat. And Thandi has gone on to have two ‘miracle babies’.
Bringing the story full circle, Helping Rhinos is now working with the Kariega Foundation to help provide education programmes to communities surrounding the many wildlife reserves in the Eastern Cape and even gives its supporters the opportunity to ‘adopt Thandi and her family’. Helping Rhinos also runs its own education programme called Rhinocation, which Worldwide Experience is partner in, and together they have sent students from the UK to South Africa to experience firsthand wildlife conservation.
What started out as a one-off Worldwide Experience trip turned into complete change of life. Simon’s story goes to show that if you follow your heart and use the experiences that present themselves, you can make a real difference to world that we live in.
To find out more about Helping Rhinos, visit helpingrhinos.org or email simon@helpingrhinos.org

Facebook0
Facebook
Instagram10
YouTube10
YouTube