Overseas Volunteer Experience Stories

Tenna Sturm | Volunteer Coordinator 

Tenna Sturm

Hi everyone, my name is Tenna, and I’ve been the volunteer coordinator here at Alturas for the past three months. I’m originally from Denmark, where I’m currently doing a master’s degree in veterinary medicine that I hope I will finish by summer next year. In July, I applied for the job since my fall semester got canceled due to the pandemic. I’ve volunteered multiple times at different sanctuaries around the world (including Costa Rica). Wildlife has been a big passion for a long time, so I thought coming to Alturas would be a great way to spend my newfound free time and get some more experience in working with wildlife and gaining experience in supervision.

My work here basically consisted of helping to train the new volunteers and supervise the volunteers cleaning and feeding, and to make sure that all the animals got enrichment for the day. When we were not cleaning and preparing enrichment, I would try to figure out something for the volunteers to do, e.g., going to the beach to collect browse and almonds or just going to a waterfall to relax. When I had time, I would also help Sandy and Rebeca in the clinic, which I really enjoyed since I learned a lot about the emergency treatment of the animals that we got in. Another thing I enjoyed was helping shape one of the research projects on the behaviors of the Capuchins. As a vet student, I’ve learned a bit about observing behavior, but I’ve never really had the opportunity to do the observations firsthand and using different sampling methods. But it wasn’t all work; the volunteers and I had some great adventures exploring the area, for example, surfing, whale watching, and zip-lining. It has been so much fun!

Before coming here, I was pretty confident in my knowledge of the animals in Costa Rica from my other times volunteering. Still, I’ve learned something new almost every day, such as animal facts or how a sanctuary works. But I’ve also learned a lot more about myself. Now I’m a lot more confident in my leadership skills, which I definitely will take with me wherever I’ll end up in the future.

One of my favorite memories from the past few months was when we released the two anteaters, Angus and Prince. Seeing the animals back in the wild puts everything they do here at Alturas into perspective and makes all the hard work worth it. Another part that I really enjoyed was preparing the enrichment and then watching the animals using it. Especially on Halloween, where we had fun making Halloween-themed enrichment.

This experience wouldn’t have been the same without the wonderful staff and volunteers here at Alturas. I don’t doubt for one second that this is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Thank you to the staff for being nice and patient with me and teaching me a whole bunch of interesting things. And thank you to the volunteers for the hard work and all the time we spend together. It’s been a blast, and hopefully, I can come back one day!

Forever thank you,

My Experience: Volunteer Coordinator