New Adventures at BARCS

For my activist project I decided to volunteer with the Shriver Center, especially because I was already on the Shriver LLC floor and had a service site when I joined the class. I had started volunteering at BARCS at the beginning of the semester, a change from the fall semester in which I had volunteered at the Esperanza center teaching English. BARCS is the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, which has been open since July 2005. In any given year the shelter takes in over 11,000 unwanted, abused or stray animals of any kind and they are working to the ultimate goal of becoming a no-kill shelter. A big goal that they have already accomplished is that every cat or dog that comes in is spayed or neutered. Overall, starting to volunteer here was a big change and it really took me out of my comfort zone because I have never been around animals that much and do not consider myself a dog or cat person, and now I have to be around them for 3 hours a day. It was a lot at first, I will admit, as I had decided to volunteer with non-animal contact tasks, such as making copies, making adoption packets, or building crates.  This was fine at the beginning of the semester when there was alto to do, but by the end the printer broke and there were fewer crates, so I decided to get trained for cat socializing.

No matter what I was doing whether it was making copies, building crates, or petting the cats, I needed to make sure that I reminded myself that every action did matter to the success. Some Saturdays did feel like I was wasting my time because I was not doing anything that was crucial, as well as I felt that none of the other volunteers cared if I was there or not. However, this was a negative way of looking at volunteering because there are the jobs that are not glamourous or not recognized, but those are the ones that matter the most to making the volunteering worth it. Volunteering at BARCS made me realize that I prefer working in the background because I am not really good at dealing with people and drama in the forefront plus by the end of the semester I still did not know much surrounding how the shelter runs. One of the positives that came out of this activism project was finding that I enjoy to dishes, I had already liked to do them, but BARCS was a bigger challenge because of the smell from the pet food. But seeing how quickly the dishes pile up and how easy they were to clean in the industrial dishwasher, I felt like I had made an impact by letting the other volunteers focus on the animals.

Another positive that I took from volunteering for my activist project was finding out that I have a voice in my volunteering experience and can determine how I feel after being a volunteer. At first, I felt bad because I did not want to handle the animals and talking with a member of the Shriver center, I thought I had made a bad decision. However, BARCS was the best choice for me with the other opportunities that I had this semester and I had to give my all and do everything that I could when I went there.  Also, I could speak up for what I wanted to do, yes most volunteers from UMBC handle the animals, but there is always other work to be done that is greatly appreciated and I am still a volunteer.

If I would have done this activist project over again, I would still go the route of service-learning, but I would change the site in which I am volunteering. This would be for enjoyment and making me feel like I contributing to something that I am passionate about and might look towards in the future for a career. Changing locations would have also allowed me to do work that may still be in the background, but with more impact as it is a smaller group of volunteers. Other than maybe a change in location, I enjoyed my time at BARCS this semester and learned a lot for my activist project.

Before this class and the activist project, I never truly considered myself an activist because yes I do have stances on certain topics in my life, but I would never protest or join a group for an opinion. But the activist project showed me that the actions I take do not have to be extreme or aggressive to make the community aware of an issue that I care about. Another thing that this activist project taught me was that I have things that I care about and they do matter. Volunteering at a service site that I did not really have a passion for, but still gained a lot of insight at showed me that I can just do small things and hopefully they will add up in the future to make a bigger difference.

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