I Volunteer!

All manner of information has been published recently about the benefits of volunteering. As I appear to have a bit of time on my hands at the moment I thought I would give it a try. As part of the appeal of volunteering is to get out into the big wide world and do something practical I approached the State Emergency Service (SES) first up. I have long thought of putting my hand up with the Country Fire Authority (CFA), who do a fantastic job every summer, but my too close for comfort experience with the Black Saturday bushfires put me off that idea. Besides, the SES appear to offer more variety, cutting trapped people out of smashed cars, pulling trees off houses, etc. So I gave them a call and the woman I spoke with said she would pass my name on to my local representative. If they had not got in touch with me after a few weeks, call again. This did not strike me as the sort of organisation that was tripping over itself to get new helpers. I felt a bit discouraged with the lukewarm response to my offer and, needless to say, I have not heard a thing since my phone call.

Being a veterinarian I thought Birdlife Australia might be useful. I have experience with mist netting, bird banding and handling. I even joined up as a member. While I was pointed at a couple of subsidiary groups within Birdlife Australia the person I was suggested to email about volunteering my services has also declined to respond.

How about a nice conservation organisation? Unfortunately World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and others are all based in Sydney, so I tried Friends of the Earth. I used to frequent their shop as a student to buy my groceries each week and I thought that a regular spot helping out there would be useful. I filled in their form, registered my interest and have heard nothing since.

I contacted Kiva, the microloan organisation, as they need people to vet their loan applications. Thank you for your interest. You have been placed on our waiting list.

Perhaps I should try something specifically veterinary? Vets Beyond Borders run several programs in India sterilising street dogs. Unfortunately these places have a “no euthanasia” policy, presumably on some kind of strange religious grounds (as an aside, my wife met a Cambodian Buddhist at her book club the other week. She was most surprised to discover that it was okay from him to eat meat as long as he did not kill it himself. An interesting loophole that can be exploited by any carnivores who are contemplating Buddhism). Recently I watched a program featuring Luke Gamble, a vet working with Worldwide Veterinary Services (WVS). He visited an animal refuge in India. The entire place was full of paralysed, emaciated dogs dragging themselves around on their back ends, with various limb ulcers that needed constant bandaging. The Dutch woman who ran the place refused to entertain the notion that most of these dogs were in constant pain, had no quality of life and should be euthanased. I don’t think I could work in that sort of hypocritical environment that promotes animal welfare without acknowledging that, sometimes, animal welfare can best be promoted through euthanasia.

I thought about volunteering with WVS. Unfortunately many of their placements require a significant time commitment, while others, like Earthwatch, expect you to pay for the privilege of helping them out. Is it not enough that I am prepared to forgo payment and cover my own costs without having to pay to work too?

Perhaps I am just being too picky but, I must admit, I have been quite surprised at the sort of lukewarm (ice cold) responses I have received. Most organisations appear more than happy to accept donations of money but seem curiously unenthusiastic about donations of time. Maybe I should just go and plant some trees?

Dr. F. Bunny



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  1. #1 by Thoraiya on 17/09/2014 - 12:34 pm

    About Buddhists being able to eat meat: I remember being told by this one Hindu guy in Nepal that when the cows they used for ploughing got too old, or a milk cow stopped producing, they would feed them salty uncooked rice and then let them drink until their stomach exploded. “Oh, no! The cow died!” Poor cows.

    As for volunteering, I’m remembering volunteering for things like weeding in National Parks. For a while, they didn’t want volunteers because they had work-for-the-dole guys doing it. Another one NPWS did near us, in conjunction with a bunch of uni students doing a PhD, was counting frogs at night. No local tertiary institute with any kind of scientific happenings? Or local fenced-in ark that could use someone prepared to patrol for foxes or euthanase feral cats?

    The problem with donations of time, I guess, is that they don’t know you enough to know if you’ll need micromanaging. You might be better off organising your own thing. Rock up to the local library, pet shop, shopping centre or farmer’s market and offer to take people on educational or birdwatching bushwalks, organise them to help you pick up rubbish or pull out noxious weeds, etc. Maybe the local Aboriginal land council could use some lawn mowing or fence-repairing?

    And GetUp is always asking for volunteers, if that’s a thing you might do. You could euthanase a hundred feral cats and it might have less impact than a single thoughtless policy. I was tempted to answer the call for doorknockers to inform people about government policies on the Great Barrier Reef, but at the last second had to be realistic about my shyness and horror at the thought of intruding on strangers 🙂

  2. #2 by vetsbeyondreason on 18/09/2014 - 10:49 am

    Like all religious beliefs, I guess there are always ways around them when they become inconvenient.

    Thanks for the suggestions. I am not aware of GetUp, so I will check them out. I am probably just being too fussy. I guess everything takes time, even volunteering.

  3. #3 by vetsbeyondreason on 02/10/2014 - 11:15 am

    I have now been contacted by both the SES and Birdlife Australia. I am obviously far too impatient. “I have all the patience in the world. It’s just waiting I can’t stand.” I can’t remember who said that. Siegfried from Get Smart?

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