Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme

An Adventure in the Bornean Rainforest

Long standing supporter, volunteer and 2016 volunteer coordinator, Joanne Cotton, shares her experience of voluntary work in Borneo gained from taking part in the Orangutan Foundation Volunteer Programme.

2016 Volunteers pose for a photograph, coconuts in hand.

“I had trawled the internet for hours reading up about potential volunteer programmes, many of which offered fun and adventure in far off lands but somehow there was something lacking. As soon as I read the information about the Orangutan Foundation programme, I knew that I had found the right adventure for me. It was really important to me that whatever project I joined, it had genuine heart and soul for a worthwhile cause, a real opportunity to help make a much needed difference. The Orangutan Foundation offered this by the bucket load! This was an opportunity to live and work in the rainforest in Indonesian Borneo with a local team doing building work that ultimately was to facilitate the release of orangutans in the area.

I applied for the programme straight away and was very glad I had done so as places were limited. The Orangutan Foundation arranged for a telephone interview with me, this was just an informal chat but was a great opportunity for them to check that I was suitable for such an experience and also for me to ask all of the many questions I had been thinking about.

That’s how my adventure started and six months later I found myself at an airport, on the other side of the planet, all by myself. I had never done anything like this before and it felt amazing, I felt so liberated, yet it had only just begun!


Volunteers get to grips with basic construction work, 2016.

When I signed up to do this project, this was well outside of my comfort zone but the staff at Orangutan Foundation were extremely helpful and supportive and provided me with lots of useful information so that I could be as prepared as possible for what lay ahead. If you are thinking of joining an Orangutan Foundation programme in the future, I cannot recommend it enough, just do it! It will open your eyes and it is likely that you will never look at our planet and life the same way again."

Applications for this year’s Volunteer Programme are now OPEN. Email info@orangutan.org.uk to receive an application form. Please join us for an unforgettable experience!

Volunteering in Borneo

I know Stephen continually refers to time flying and questions where time goes…well, it certainly happens to me too. It seems like just yesterday that I was interviewing an eclectic group of people wanting to be a part of our 2008 Volunteer Programme and yet the final team are over half way through their 6 weeks of fun in the forest. I participated on the Orangutan Foundation’s volunteer programme in 2001 and I now work in the London office. As Stephen mentioned in his last post, I’m currently in Indonesia visiting the Foundation’s projects. I’m going to join in with the last two weeks of Team 3 – what am I letting myself in for?

I will report back here, in this blog.

So far all the teams have made a great headway on this year's project – a new release site near the Mangkung River in the Lamandau Wildlife Reserve. A release site sounds easy, but in reality it is a lot of work. From scratch we have to construct walkways, staff accommodation, kitchen, storage buildings, dig the latrine and make the release platform itself!

release site

First finished building of the release camp at Mangkung, 2nd on its way (note the volunteer accommodation in the distance on the right)

Travel -volunteer style!

Travel - volunteer style!

Team 3 are finding it quite a challenge to get it completed by the middle of October, however everyone who has contributed will be able to see the final fruits of their labour when we have our first orangutans released there.

If you think you would like to be a part of the 2009 Volunteer Programme then please visit Orangutan Foundation website.



Development & Volunteer Co-ordinator UK Office