UCF Students Go Ape Over Volunteer Work

Courtesy of the Center for Great Apes

Courtesy of the Center for Great Apes

We’re excited to announce Hominids Anonymous, University of Central Florida’s undergraduate anthropology club,  was featured in the Center for Great Apes annual report due to their charitable donations and volunteer work.  Hominids Anonymous is mentioned in the articles “Our Chimp-ly Irresistible Volunteers Donated 9,100 hours*” and “The Great Ape Garden.”  To read both articles in the Center for Great Apes annual report, click here.  In honor of the club’s good works, we sat down with Hominids Anonymous president, Chirsty Wayne, to speak more about the club and their relationship with the Center for Great Apes.

Wayne describes the Center for Great Apes as “a sanctuary that provides permanent residence for retired or rescued chimpanzees and orangutans.” Most of the center’s residents came from the entertainment industry, medical research or were former pets.  Their backgrounds make them unsuitable to be released back into the wild, therefore the Center has created a safe, healthy environment full of enrichment for the apes to live in.

“Dr. Wheeler, our adviser, helped us establish the opportunity for members of Hominids Anonymous to volunteer, as she would often collect donations from students  [for the Center for Great Apes,]” said Wayne.  The students were very excited about the idea of working with [the Center] because not many people get the chance to see and work near great apes.  Since Dr. Wheeler’s introduction, officers of Hominids Anonymous have maintained good connections with a few of the employees.

The club has been using their relationship with the center to volunteer as often as they’re able, going, on average, in groups of six to ten people once a month. The Center for Great Apes has also used their UCF connection in Volunteer UCF to host lectures, educating a wider audience about the work and needs of the Center. When asked, Wayne listed the variety of tasks Hominids Anonymous does in their volunteer work. “Recently, [the Center has] made a really lovely garden to grow food for the apes to lower expenses.” The club helps with gardening early in the day before tackling other jobs. Wayne mentioned cleaning enclosures, getting rid of weeds and doing tunnel maintenance as only a few of their activities.

“Hominids Anonymous will sometimes host media and bake sales on [the UCF] campus to raise donation money. We also collect any items on [the Center’s] wish list that students or members donate such as blankets, food items, paper bags etc.”Wayne praises Dr. Wheeler of spreading the word and getting students to donate. The club’s president also reminds us anyone can donate and a list of wishlist items can be found on the center’s website. While Hominid’s Anonymous’ work at the center is very hands on, none of the volunteers are allowed to touch or play with the apes. Still, the club is given a tour of the property on every visit which allows members to see all of the apes and learn about their backgrounds. The apes are always curious about new visitors and try to get the volunteer’s attention or hang around to watch them work. “After volunteering quite a few times, I’m convinced they find us more entertaining than we find them,” said Wayne.

The Hominids Anonymous president state that “volunteering is always rewarding on its own” but recognized the experience helps out club members professionally as well. Especially for any anthropology students interested in primatology. Professional connections can always be made with the staff at the Center.  Wayne says “volunteering is educational and the [Center’s] staff is always willing to help guide students in the directions they’re interested in. They’re familiar with professionals in academia and give great advice [on] field opportunities.” If apes don’t happen to be someone’s area of interest, Wayne still encourages them to join Hominids Anonymous for professional reasons. “The most important thing we provide… is the ability to network and teach students what is important if [they] want to make a career out of anthropology.” Volunteering at the Center for Great Apes is only one of the many activities they do as a group to help students gain experience outside of the classroom.

Hominids Anonymous focuses on providing students with the resources and information necessary to prepare them for the professional world in both academia and the workforce. The club tries to make a fun social environment where students can learn about the field. To learn more about Hominids Anonymous and how you can get involved, join the group’s Facebook page, linked here. There, they keep everyone up to date on weekly meetings, organized events, volunteer opportunities, and anything else going on in the field. Hominids Anonymous is the undergraduate anthropology club at UCF. It is open to everyone interested although most of the members are anthropology majors or minors. As for the club’s name, Wayne has no idea who originally developed it. “But hominid or hominin refers to modern humans and their extinct relatives,” she told us. To see the Center for Great Apes Facebook page updated with all of the center’s news and information, click here.

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