Youth Forward Scholarship 2017 – Volunteering: A Two-Way Street

Name: Lauren Lewis
From: Lithia, Florida
Grade: 10th (currently in 11th)
School: Newsome High School
Votes: 0

Beginning my freshman year of high school, a friend of mine convinced
me to start volunteering at RVR Horse Rescue (a non-profit
organization in my area). At first I agreed, based solely on the fact
this would help me get the “volunteer hours” I needed to apply
for a scholarship—a selfish but true reality with many kids. RVR is
a local ranch that finds horses, donkeys, pigs, and other farm
animals that have been abused, discarded, or neglected and works on
rehabilitation, so I thought, “I love animals, so why not?”

My first day at RVR, I was scared out of my mind. Before becoming an
official volunteer, we had to undergo training in which we shadowed
one of the workers there, and the one thing that we all found out
right off the bat—some of these animals were crazy. Many of the
animals had come from extremely abusive, near-death situations that
had completely destroyed their faith and trust in humans, leaving
their behavior dicey and unpredictable. Therefore, many necessary
precautions had to be taken when working. Our responsibilities
included the basics of animal care: making sure food and water were
always in supply, bathing them, walking them, and above all showing
them the love and care that they had never received previously. The
most challenging part of this volunteer work, however, was not the
physical toll but the psychological one. It was heart-breaking to see
the initial condition of the animals entering the ranch: many were
battered, cut, branded, limping, starving, exhausted, and close to
giving up. It really gave a new perspective to all of us working at
the ranch who thought, “How could someone do this to an innocent
animal?” “What brings someone to harm another living thing like
this?” It was truly horrifying to imagine the type of people and
situation that could’ve caused so much pain to the sweet animals at
the ranch.

On the other hand, I soon began to see the most rewarding part of the
job: the transformations that the animals went through thanks to
proper care and rehabilitation. Their stomachs filled out and ribs
disappeared, hooves went from dry and cracked to strong and healthy,
patches of hair began to fill out the scars and bald spots in their
coats, and most importantly their attitude change—animals who were
once finicky, aggressive, or painfully shy became warm and nuzzling
creatures who once again could trust human contact. The physical
scars of these animals disappeared over time, and though some
psychological scars would still always remain, their behavior had
taken a 180-degree turn for the better. I have also experienced a
change for the better due to my time at RVR, which has inspired me to
hopefully continue this line of work by pursuing a doctorate degree
in veterinary medicine. I thank RVR for all it has done for the
animals they’ve encountered and for myself, and can’t wait to see
how much more change they bring to the future.

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