Sometimes, there comes a moment in your life when you wonder if you should be doing more. For a woman named Tamala Lester, this moment came several years ago. After a successful career spanning 30 years in residential remodeling, owning a custom cabinetry shop, and raising a family, she found herself asking the question: “How can I make my life more meaningful?” Some people’s answers may come in various forms: travel, humanitarian work, relationships or even in a single book. Tamala found her answer in animals.
Turning a Passion Into a Career
Growing up on a farm, Tamala had always loved animals – especially farm animals. As much as she loved companion animals, she didn’t want to start another cat and dog rescue organization. Every time she contemplated the question, she found herself reminiscing over those childhood memories on the farm and those memories, it became clear, were her answer.
In January 2010, she founded The Barnyard Sanctuary, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping and relocating homeless pet farm animals who have become displaced due to social, financial, or well-being of their caregivers.
“The heart of my mission at that time,’’ according to Tamala, “was providing homeless farm animals with a safe, loving and nurturing environment after their caregivers faced hardship.’’
Within the first week they opened, 74 farm animals would call The Barnyard Sanctuary home. Since then, the sanctuary has offered refuge to nearly 3,000 farm animals – and they’re growing all the time.
The Secret to the Sanctuary’s Success
“The most important thing you need in this,’’ says Tamala, “is perseverance.’’
Rescuing animals is not easy work. When there are so many animals out there suffering, you can’t just stick your head in the sand. The animals need our help. Fortunately, Tamala has zero intention of turning her back on animals, she’s in this for the long haul.
“Not losing sight of why I am doing this has me working hard towards the reality of finding a long-term home for The Barnyard Sanctuary,’’ she explains.
Currently, their base is a 15-acre farm with five full-time and three part-time team members, three full-time volunteers and a handful of daily volunteers, but they are hoping to expand.
‘’We’ve found the perfect location just four miles from where we are now,” says Tamala. ”It is a 153-acre farm, which not would only allow us to provide sanctuary for more farm animals that are in desperate need, but will allow us to become a self-sustaining working, organic farm.’’
But There Are Always Challenges…
You may think that taking care of the 700+ animals that reside at The Barnyard Sanctuary may be one of the hardest challenges but Tamala calls it more of a “joy’’ than a challenge. The challenge, like with many non-profit organizations, lies in the raising of money they need.
“There are not enough hours in the day to ensure we have enough funds, as we are currently supported 100 percent by donations and currently receive no support from government agencies or grants,’’ says Tamala.
From the daily operational expenses for food, hay, and caregivers to the money needed for vet care and medication, running a farm animal sanctuary is not cheap. That’s why they need as many donations as they can get. Otherwise, simply put, they cannot continue with their mission to help farm animals.
Another challenge, which also returns to the challenge of raising money, is finding dedicated employees and volunteers.
“Ideally, it would be great to be able to pay competitive or enticing wages for more positions on the farm, as well as have a full-time office person, a full-time grant person, an on-staff vet, and 2-3 more animal caregivers,’’ she explains.
The Connection Between Farm Animals and Food
For some people, it takes a while to make the connection between meat and the animal from which it derives. Even for Tamala, who’d always loved farm animals, it took a while before she made the connection and turned vegan but as soon as it happened, it stuck.
”There was a huge disassociation between the animals I was saving and the prepackaged food bought in the supermarket,” she explains. ”One day I was looking at our farm pig, Miss Piggy, and it just clicked. Shortly thereafter, I gave up all animal products, not just meat, and became a vegan. It was one of the most important decisions I have ever made in my life. My only regret was that I did not do it sooner.”
How You Can Help
The Barnyard Sanctuary is growing all the time. Tamala has some incredible plans for the future of the sanctuary, like buying their new farm (here’s a video of the farm they want to buy), installing fencing, and moving the animals there. In order to make those plans happen, they need your help. Putting aside the plans, The Barnyard Sanctuary also relies on your donations just to exist.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can help. Here are just a few ways:
Share this post and encourage others to as well to raise awareness for this awesome sanctuary!