When my daughter, Ashley, was 12, we went to a guinea pig rescue to get her a new pet. Who knew such a place even existed? Apparently lots of people change their minds about having small pets and they need a place to take them, which is where the rescue steps in.
Lisa, the owner, ran the rescue from her home and had wall-to-wall cages in her living room. Ashley was awestruck. Lisa asked her if she'd like to hold a few guinea pigs before she left. Yes! Then Lisa mentioned she could always use an extra hand to hold and help bathe guinea pigs or clean their cages. She told Ashley if she ever wanted to come over as a volunteer she'd love to have her.
That short visit was the catalyst for almost six years of Ashley being a volunteer. From the guinea pig rescue, she moved on to a different small animal rescue called This Little Piggy. It was a perfect opportunity for her animal-loving heart. She could put in volunteer hours around her own schedule and it fulfilled her desire to be with animals without bringing more into our home, which made me happy! She learned a lot about how to care for animals and earned credentials and references she can use on her resume.
About two months ago, Ashley's volunteer work turned into her first paying job. This Little Piggy has evolved into Arizona Down Under Exotic Petting Zoo and Ashley is their first paid employee. Though it has been operating as a mobile petting zoo for birthday parties and school visits, the onsite grand opening will be held Nov. 30- Dec. 1 (Thanksgiving weekend).
Might your child be interested in volunteering?
If so, here are five tips to consider. You never know what doors it may open for him.
- Figure out what your child is passionate about. Music? Art? Animals? Sports? Organizing? Nature? Science? The possibilities are practically endless.
- Look for organizations specializing in that area of interest.
- Visit the organization's website to see if they use volunteers. If so, what are the age limits? Do they require a certain number of hours per week or month? We found that many of the animal-related places accept volunteers only if they are over the age of 18.
- Visit the volunteer site and meet the people your child will volunteer with. If you're uncomfortable with them in any way, they're not the right fit for you and your child.
- Be willing to volunteer with your child if he's nervous doing it alone the first few times.
Volunteer work teaches responsibility, work ethic, gives your child a purpose beyond himself, and educates in an area in which he's already interested. It also lets him try out a job to see if he likes it.
Has your child volunteered? What did he do? What were the benefits? Were there any negatives about the experience? Looking forward to hearing from you!