It was about year ago that I started volunteering at SASHA Farm Sanctuary. I remember the first time I ever went there: I was so excited to see all the animals. Don’t get me wrong–I had seen these animals at the zoo–but, seeing them in a sanctuary setting is quite remarkable.
Knowing that these animals are there just to live and not to serve anyone else’s wants or needs is heartwarming. Seeing the goats, sheep, and cows graze freely, watching the cows tend to their young (for those who came to the sanctuary pregnant), and admiring the chickens dust bathe is quite a sight to see. And since volunteering, I’ve learned so much about the animals, running a sanctuary, and dealing with loss. Below are some of those lessons.
Farm Animals Can Be Very Much Like Pets
One of the greatest joys of volunteering at an animal sanctuary is getting to know the animals. A lot of the animals are very social and enjoy being around people, just like dogs and cats do. Despite the fact that many animals come from abusive scenarios, they are very forgiving and appreciate being around people. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a cow come up to me to get their chin scratched or had a pig nudge my hand to get rubbed on the ears. And if you get the trust of a chicken or rooster, they sometimes let you pick them up and pet their head. These animals share so many things in common with the pets we share our homes with, though we view them differently than we view our pets.
Getting the Word Out About the Farm Becomes Just as Important as Volunteering
When you start volunteering for a farm sanctuary, you become kind of a spokesperson for them. Sharing their events on social media and posting pictures of the animals becomes just as vital as volunteering at the farm. You can introduce the farm to people who would otherwise have no knowledge or interest in it. Most people I know had no knowledge of this sanctuary and being able to show them this place is great. You become the person that knows the animals and can speak up for them. You can talk about the farm and show people that these animals have personalities and enjoy life when given the chance.
A Farm Sanctuary is Not all Fun and Games
While being around the animals is nice, volunteering and even running a sanctuary does not always mean working directly with the animals. A lot of the work done at the farm involves feeding, giving animals water, cleaning up waste, and doing other miscellaneous things around the farm. Running a farm sanctuary is a lot more than petting the animals and brushing them. There is a lot of hard work required to keep the farm up and running, especially if animals are continually being taken in. As well, it requires a lot of financial support. Keeping hundreds of animals well fed, clean, in a proper environment, and healthy is costly and requires a lot of resources and help. It’s not something you take lightly.
You Can’t Save Every Animal
Many animals come from abusive situations and already have life-threatening diseases. As well, most of the animals live out their lives at the sanctuary. Loss is a sad but necessary part of a sanctuary and no matter what you do, it will happen. However, it’s important to remember that they have lived a better life at the sanctuary. Despite their life before the sanctuary, they were treated with respect and appreciation while at the sanctuary and they will be remembered after their death.
Volunteering Makes a Difference
The most important thing I’ve learned is how important volunteering is. Not only is it important for organizations, but it’s important for the volunteers. Knowing that you are an important part in making these animal’s lives better is very heartwarming. Even if it’s merely a few hours a month or its does not involve direct action, doing something makes all the difference, albeit only for one.
Getting to know these animals and their stories is so uplifting. If you can’t volunteer, I highly recommend visiting these places and donating to them if you are able. To find a local sanctuary near you, check out Animal Place’s directory.
All image source: Jamie Steis