My name is Jodie Sawbridge and I currently live in a small village in Northamptonshire, working as a gardener whilst I study Bsc Environmental Science with the Open University. I have always wanted to work with animals but as I grew up and came to understand the global impacts that humanity is having on this planet, and all the beautiful species it is home to, my dream of working with animals became a more actualised dream of a career as a conservationist. In order to turn this dream into a reality I have had to dedicate myself as a student and a volunteer for conservation charities; this is where GVI came in. In 2018, I was researching conservation projects online and came across GVI on a working overseas website. Hoping not to travel too far I picked GVI’s turtle conservation program which takes place in Giannitsochori, a tiny place on the Greek Peloponnese, and signed myself up for two weeks volunteers work in June that year. June is the time that the turtles lay their eggs, so I knew I was there to protect those nests and assure that the eggs inside them hatch without being disturbed. Actually travelling to Greece could have gone a little smoother than it did… After being denied boarding on my flight due to overbooking, I contacted a member of staff at GVI and filled her in on the situation. Very thoughtfully, a staff member waited hours and hours for me at the airport,
missing her bus back. This lovely woman then sorted accommodation for us both in Athens in order for us to travel to Giannitsochori the following day. I had had a long day and was a little irritated at the airline, however the greeting I got at the airport made me feel so welcome and appreciated, I
knew I was in safe hands. The warmth and appreciation I got from this first staff member continued throughout the trip. Any questions or concerns that I, or anyone else, had were answered with passion, knowledge and care. This approach also followed through with the training I received once the volunteer work had started. A typical day meant a very early start and a survey. Surveys meant walking along a beautiful stretch of beach, enjoying the sunrise, and discovering turtle tracks all along the beach. The staff explained how to read and understand the tracks, as well as showing us how to record the GPS location of the nest we had found, and how to safely cover the nest with a cage so it couldn’t be dug up by animals. Admittedly, some days this was hard work with a lot of nests having been dug, but at
least it was an early finish after that early start! The rest of each day was spent enjoying the amazing scenery, the refreshing sea, the local area, and
most importantly, spending time with the other volunteers and staff that were there. I met some really lovely people from all over the world during my stay, some of which are still dear friends of mine now. Our time spent together included collecting plastic from the beach and upcycling it to
create decorations for the camp, art, yoga and card games. We each also took it in turns to cook and clean the site for everyone there.
From start to finish, (excluding a very delayed flight) my trip to Greece was two of the best weeks of my life. Not only did I make new friends in a truly stunning part of the world, the gratification and reward I felt for helping the turtles and their nest’s safe is incomparable to any other feeling I have had. During my stay we reached the 1000 nest mark, meaning 1000 nests had been located and protected, and the chances of healthy hatchlings that year was dramatically increased. I already knew I wanted to be a conservationist, but the experience I had really reaffirmed this. Not only did I have an incredible personal experience, my trip is something that is on my CV, and most importantly gave me experience in the field I want to work in. GVI is a company I really hope to work for one day, and I would quite happily go back to Giannitsochori to do so. My advice for anyone considering volunteering or working here is to do it! Arrive with an open mind, an open heart, and be ready for a lot of fun whilst gaining extremely valuable experience.