A TEENAGER from Stalybridge is raising money for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to South Africa in pursuit of his dream to become a zookeeper.Declan Gibbons, of Carrbrook, studies animal management at Tameside College, a course that aims to educate students in the care and study of animals from a variety of environments and species.
On his own initiative, he researched potential work experience opportunities abroad that would help enhance his learnings and came across Agape Volunteers.
The charity runs, among others, wildlife conservation programmes in the Marakele National Park, Limpopo Province and offered Declan, 18, a three-week placement in October.
He said: “I’ve always loved animals and wildlife since a very young age, especially in high school. I was bullied quite a lot and I found I bonded more with animals than humans.
“That was a major factor in my decision to go to college to study wildlife. That inspired me to look for opportunities for experience outside the classroom to expand my knowledge.“Working in South Africa and getting hands on with the conservation efforts will really help with my education as well as help towards my ultimate career goal of becoming a zookeeper.
“Having done this off my own back has given me a real sense of accomplishment. It’s really boosted my self-confidence and that, for me, is a huge achievement.”
Tameside College has recognised the importance of the opportunity as “valuable experience for Declan’s future career” and have agreed to part-fund his trip.
He is now raising money to help cover the costs of his equipment, clothing and vaccinations.
Declan continued: “When I told my tutor Laura Parker about what I wanted to do she showed me all her pictures from her time in South Africa and encouraged me to email the principal.
“From there it snowballed. I’m very grateful to Tameside College for their support and I hope the experiences I bring back with me can benefit their curriculum. But I’ve still got a long way to go.
“I need to raise about £1,000 to cover the remaining costs for things like torches, medication, clothing and vaccinations so I’ve got a few fundraising initiatives planned for the next few months.
“I’m also planning to do a couple of sponsored hikes and walks to get myself fit for all the physical activity that will be involved, so if anyone would be interested in sponsoring me please get in touch.”
• Anyone wishing to get in touch with Declan to sponsor one of his fundraising initiatives can do so on either 07707 012363 or 07555 578324.