Charity work is one of the most rewarding things you can do with your spare time, and most organizations are in dire need of volunteers. Working with animals is an attractive option, but it does entail a lot of hard work, commitment, and a willingness to pitch in and get your hands dirty.
Apart from a few very large and established charity organizations, most of them will not have a training program in place to guide you before you begin your duties, so there are a few things to keep in mind to prevent you from feeling lost and to help you get the most out of the experience.
The following tips will ensure you become a productive, efficient volunteer in no time, and may just set you on the path to a career in animal welfare.
1. Be prepared
This may sound like an obvious statement, but it will hold you in good stead once you get into an animal shelter. You may come into contact with animals that have been beaten, starved, or even forced to compete in dogfighting rings.
Unfortunately this is a big part of working in animal welfare and you will need a strong stomach and the ability to act quickly in highly stressful situations. If you are traveling abroad to volunteer, bear in mind that some animal shelters operate differently to what you may be used to.
In less developed countries there may not be enough funding to house each animal in its own separate space. You may see a great number of dogs housed together in a large area, so performing your chores and keeping on top of crowd control requires an assertive personality.
2. Use your initiative
Working with animals comes with many rewards, but some moments can be extremely stressful and require undivided attention from staff members. If the other employees are occupied and unable to assign tasks, use your initiative and find something to do on your own.
Standing around feeling awkward doesn’t help anyone, and there are an endless amount of tasks that always need to be done. Grab a broom and disinfectant spray and get cleaning, or change any dirty and soiled bedding. Provided you have permission, take one of the animals for a walk and give them some much-needed exercise.
The most important duty that a volunteer will have is also the most fun, and that is showering the residents with hugs, kisses, and love. The majority of shelter animals are attention starved and need a kind word and a gentle hand to remind them that the world can be a wonderful place.
3. Be reliable
Once you become a part of the workforce, the shelter staff will begin to rely on you much more than you can imagine. Even though you are donating your time and not receiving a salary, it is still important to let them know when you will be unable to make it into work.
Most charities depend on volunteers to carry out the majority of the workload and simply could not function without their help and support. It is also important for the animals to try to establish a routine, so as to make shelter life as pleasant for them as possible. If you arrive every morning at 9:00 am, they will be waiting for you faithfully each day, so always try to make it into work whenever possible.
The most important thing to remember when volunteering is to take time to enjoy the experience. If you really love your time spent at an animal shelter, you will continue to attend and may even find a lifelong passion.
As well as donating your time, you could arrange fundraising events such as bazaars and concerts, or arrange for your friends and family to sponsor you for an event. Most shelters are usually desperate for foster families for their animals, so if you are able to accommodate a furry visitor let them know upfront.
However you participate, you will be making a huge difference to the lives of all the animals you come into contact with. Not to mention that you will feel satisfied knowing that you have contributed something towards seeking a better future for them.