Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Volunteer with Your Voice...For the Voiceless

Despite the erroneous announcement from the White House last week, THIS week is National Volunteer Week!  So…happy National Volunteer Week to all!

Even though I’m a volunteer for many animal-oriented groups, this post is not going to be about me. I want to talk about volunteers in general with a focus on those who work with organizations dedicated to animals.

To begin, I would like to know why you volunteer where you do.  If you’re like me, you volunteer where you do because you get some enjoyment out of it.  And if you’re like me, you love the clients…you know those furry little four-legged guys and gals who have no voice of their own.

As I spend more of my time volunteering and getting to know other volunteers, it’s starting to seem like the animals we all work so hard to help are not the only beings that don’t have a voice.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a volunteer say, “Well, I can’t say anything or else I can’t volunteer there.”  And yet it shocks me every time I hear someone make that statement.  It shocks me because what these people are reluctant to comment on usually has to do with one of two things:  how animals are being treated or paid staff members not doing what they are compensated to do.

Clearly, there is something wrong with this.

If you are a volunteer trying to do make a difference in the lives of animals, the most effective tool you have at your disposal is your voice.  It’s more valuable to the animals’ well-being than your hands or your back.  So, use it!  Stand up and say something about what you see, about what you know is inappropriate.  If you wouldn’t let it be done to your own pet, don’t let whatever it is be done to an animal who is not as fortunate as yours.  Call people out intelligently, in other words
Every animal-related organization has its share of workhorses (forgive the pun!) who do the majority of the physical work required to keep animals safe and well.  And I’m in no way, shape, or form trivializing the importance of what these devoted individuals do.  But while these organizations are lucky enough to have tireless workhorses, most of them are not fortunate enough to have people who are willing to say something when there is a breakdown…when things are obviously wrong.

Well, all of us and all of the animals need volunteers who are willing to use their voices to point out anything and everything that is wrong with how an organization operates.  What’s the worst thing that can happen if you do, anyway?  Will you get “fired?”

To put it simply, if that possibility is why you’re not saying anything, do yourself a favor and move on and volunteer somewhere else.  Life is short and you, your willingness to volunteer, and your voice are valuable resources for every single voiceless animal out there.  And there are many organizations that will recognize how valuable you, your effort and your words are.