A university student from Rotorua will be travelling overseas to help make a difference in the marine world, and interest which stemmed from her love of penguins.

Kymbali Dender will be travelling to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where she will volunteer in the Penguin and Marine Bird Project run through Khaya Projects.

She says she was interested in doing a volunteer programme and when she discovered this one decided it was the one for her because she loves penguins.

Kymbali applied, got in just a few hours later, and will be in Port Elizabeth for four weeks from mid-November to mid-December.

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She says she will be working quite closely with the penguins and other marine birds which the project rescues.

Port Elizabeth is a large shipping city and there is a lot of pollution in the water, so birds get oil on their feathers which means they cannot swim, she says.

Kymbali will help with the rescuing, cleaning up the birds, and the treatment and taking care of them.

Khaya Projects also runs an education centre so she will help with taking people on tours and providing them with information on what the centre does.

"I'm really looking forward to getting to help the penguins, that was the real decider for me."

She says as a non-profit organisation Khaya Projects needs volunteers to stay open, and has a volunteer house for those who travel to help with their work.

It will be interesting to live with people from all over the world for four weeks, she says.

Kymbali is currently a first-year student at Victoria University in Wellington, studying marine biology.

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When asked how her passion for marine biology started, the answer was again penguins.

"I have a bit of an obsession with penguins. Right from a young age I wanted to work with them, so as I got older I leaned towards marine biology."

She is loving her studies so far and says it is a great programme.

Kymbali says it is important to support projects like this one, as so many do not get recognised or funding, and are overlooked as not being a part of day-to-day life.

She says this project includes working with the African penguin, which is an endangered species.

"If they didn't have volunteers they wouldn't be able to be open and rescue all these birds."