For Earth Week I wanted to write a post focusing on the importance of volunteering for different groups. Whether you are interested in cleaning up, recycling programs, helping others to accessible food, or animal sanctuaries, all subjects lead back to the health and well being of this planet. Not to get too crazy hippie on you, but I do think the amount of action we take, the energy and love we put into something, in turn creates a positive force. Whether we benefit personally from it, you can’t predict. But if your actions lead to happier people, to a healthier Earth, I think everyone benefits. These small efforts build upon one another, and they can only be done when you engage directly with them.
One area which always needs help is at your local animal sanctuary. The people who run these animal sanctuaries are extremely passionate people who are brave for taking on the task of giving multiple rescued animals a permanent home, but they aren’t superhuman. Most times, they need the volunteer power to help keep the sanctuary functioning. By helping, you do good for the sanctuary keeper, the animals, yourself, and help to maintain the ideal that is respecting animals as ends in themselves.
One sanctuary not too far from me is For The Animals Sanctuary, a small scale operation hidden on a curvy road in the northern New Jersey town of Blairstown. It is run by Debbie Kowalski, who may very well be an actual superhero for founding the sanctuary, and running it by herself as she works a full time nursing job. With help from dedicated volunteers, they have rescued many animals. Some current residents include thirteen goats, five cows, four pigs, and a few chickens, all on just 8 acres of land. The space is small but used well. It’s lovely to see the animals graze together in a large stretch of land down the hill from her home. All of them are friendly, and really beautiful to look at.
Recently, on April 6, For The Animals held a work party, a gathering of volunteers meant to give the animals’ living spaces a good overturning. With as many as 30 people showing up, the work was seen less as work, and more of a time to get to know fellow vegans in the NJ area (though a handful came from NY just for the clean-up!). For a few hours, we lifted heavy wet hay with pitchforks, pushed wheel barrows and tarps down hill, lifted heavy mud from the pig’s living space, while outdoors, enjoying the sun and the feeling of helping this small but wonderful sanctuary out.
In the distance, the animals continued to graze in a large stretch of field, unaware they’d soon come to find their sleeping/eating spaces nice and shiny.
After the clean up was done, we shared in a giant potluck. Sadly I have no photos since I was busy eating (!), but everyone brought something amazing. It felt like a vegan buffet – I hadn’t eaten that much good food in a long time. Delicious home-made foods such as tiramisu, kale salads, cashew cheeses, chimcurri tempeh, and Debbie’s awesome pot pie. But what I loved most was meeting new people and trying the kinds of foods they also like, and relaxing after a good 3-4 hours of heavy lifting/cleaning. Following the potluck, we were given a chance to spend time with the resident animals. I had saved veggie scraps throughout the week to give to the animals – and they definitely inhaled everything we gave them.
Theresa Sarzynski, who also helps the sanctuary to operate, was also selling her vegan inspired jewelry, shirts, bumper stickers and buttons. Her work is really awesome, and I was happy to buy some buttons. Hopefully next time I remember to bring enough money to buy something like a necklace!
As the sun got low in the sky, it was time to go, but it was definitely a full day of meeting wonderful people, wonderful animals, and wonderful experiences. For The Animals is a really moving place to be. I highly recommend visiting them – you have to check their website for visiting days. However, if you like them on Facebook, be sure to check out for future volunteer days and events. On May 25, they will be having fun, kid-friendly Summer Shindig event:
Be sure to come meet the wonderful animal residents here, and enjoy the lovely North Jersey scenery. If you cannot make it, pleasure consider donating to this small scale, but deeply passionate sanctuary. For just $10 a month, you can help them to continue operating. It really is a worthy cause, both for the animals but for the lovely people who run it.
Overall, there are many ways you can approach Earth Day, and Earth Week. For me, its finding the best way to connect to the things on this Earth. And what better way than to help volunteer at a sanctuary? You come to find kind people, gorgeous animals, lovely serene settings, and a fuller, more appreciative love for the things around you every day.