Nanny Claire Baines is swapping human children for orphaned chimps
Time Out Bahrain staff
Actually the childcare expert willalso be working with human youngsters but the part of her trip she’s most excited about is visiting the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage where she’ll be doing everything from cleaning out enclosures to changing nappies on baby chimps who’ve lost their families.
Claire, 40, who’s been in Bahrain for three years as a nanny, explained: “I’ve always wanted to do something like this but, up until now, I couldn’t necessarily take the time to do it properly.
“Turning 40 was a bit of a turning point and I thought ‘right, now’s the time to do it if I’m going to do it at all’ so in a few weeks time I’ll be off to South Africa.”
Claire had planned to work in an orphanage in Malawi but, when her travelling companion pulled out, she decided to look at other options and came across a programme through African Impact which has been set up specifically to take advantage of the life experience of over 30s.
“Lots of volunteer programmes are aimed at much younger people, particularly gap-year students,” she said. “I didn’t want to be the only older one and certainly didn’t want to feel as if I was playing mum alongside the other work I’ll be doing.
“I went on the internet and Googled ‘volunteering over 30’ and the Over 30s Pre-school and Development Project in South Africa came up.
“It’s living in the heart of a game reserve in the Zulu homeland and working on a variety of projects, so one day you could be working with babies and young children who’ve lost their parents to aids, another you could be helping older teenagers to prepare a CV to help them try and make an impact in the workplace.
“I’m really looking forward to the variety and having the chance to give something back.”
From this programme, based in Thanda, Kwazulu Natal, Claire will head on to Zambia to the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage set up in 1983 when a game ranger brought a badly wounded infant chimpanzee to the cattle ranch of David and Sheila Siddle, a British couple who had lived along the Zambian copper belt since the 1950s.
The Siddles nursed that chimp – nicknamed Pal – back to health and, as word of his recovery spread, found themselves inundated with orphaned chimpanzees some confiscated from poachers trying to smuggle them into Zambia for sale as pets, others rescued from dilapidated zoos and circuses all over Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.
Their work continues today at what is the world’s largest chimp rescue facility where Claire will be putting her nannying skills to good use, also through African Impact.
She said: “I must admit, this is the part I’m most excited about – even my mum is jealous. I’ve loved working here and my young charges are brilliant, I’ll really miss them, they’re very interested in what I’m going to be doing, I’ve promised to keep in touch and let them know what I’m up to.
“The family I work for have been very supportive knowing that I want to take the chance to give something back.
“To be honest I think this is going to be both the toughest and the most rewarding thing I will ever do. Speaking to the woman at the chimp rescue, she said some of the stories you hear are very harrowing so I can see myself doing quite a bit of crying over the next couple of months – I’ll probably end up wanting to take babies home with me, both human and primate – but I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve got the chance to do something like this.
“I’ve worked all over the world and travelled so much with the families I’ve worked for but this will be something totally different, taking me completely out of my comfort zone which I think will be very good for me. “I’ll certainly miss Bahrain, but I can’t wait to get started.” To learn more about Claire’s African adventures log onto www.africanimpact.com and www.chimfunshi.org.za.