Life of a Gorilla Highlands Volunteer

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - swimming

Katharina Lahner, sent to volunteer with Gorilla Highlands by Grenzenlos (Austria), is ending her three-month stay with us. We will miss her abundant positive energy, devotion and marketing skills! To celebrate her contribution we’ve asked for a little summary of her Gorilla Highlands life. This is what she wrote on Friday, before going to Queen Elizabeth National Park to track chimps.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - classroom with Jane

I just got out of the Primary 4 classroom of Bufuka Primary School, finishing teaching arts and culture. This has been a collaboration with Karen Agocs, an art teacher in the Pacific Crest Middle School in Oregon (USA). The concept is simple: the students of both countries are drawing pictures to set topics; through exchanging them online we create dialogue between students. The realization of this art pal project was a challenge for me because of limited resources in a totally new environment. The result: many colorful drawings, excited kids, emotional interactions and a new perception of school systems and different cultural backgrounds. So a success in many ways!

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - classroom

That is not the only project I have been working on. Actually, when I think back now, just a little one in a range of many big ones. So many different great things are happening at this place I call my home and I was able to be part of!


Most of my days I was as a multimedia volunteer, interviewing local people, both Batwa and Bakiga and Bafumbira, visiting their homes, understanding their culture, their needs and way of doing business.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - canoeing

While hiking up and down the green hills I took a lot of pictures and recorded much video footage that will help promote this unique region, especially for the upcoming Gorilla Highlands Video Map. To help make the Video Map a reality, I also worked for a week in Uganda’s capital Kampala sifting through video libraries.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - computing

I spent a significant amount of my time on the laptop filling the Gorilla Highlands webpage with new content, taking care of the Gorilla Highlands social media channels and training the team.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - Silverchef

A special highlight was the opportunity to join the Gorilla Highlands Press Trip, the Silverchef cooking competition and the photo and research trip to Musanze, Rwanda – our next destination for extending the Gorilla Highlands region.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - Sabinyo climbing

Apart from being able to see the fascinating mountain gorillas, walking through Echuya Forest with Kanusu, canoe trekking on Lake Bunyonyi, climbing up Sabinyo, staying overnight at Tom’s Homestay and at other remote lovely places I enjoyed working together with inspiring journalists and photographers from six different countries.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - laundry

Learning, contributing, exchange – these are the three words that describe my stay here the best. After exploring more parts of Africa I’m planning to return for another period of time.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - kitchen

I would like to say thank you to all the people I met so far and who made this working environment so enjoyable! I’m glad that I was able to contribute my knowledge and time to this fascination region and I hope I can encourage more people to engage with the Gorilla Highlands.

Katharina Lahner GH volunteer - campfire

Photo: Marcus Westberg

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