Wednesday, September 14, 2016

We asked some of our JR volunteers what they have learned through working with CLAWS and here were some of their answers:

CLAWS, is a wildlife rescue, rehab, and education organization that is entirely non-profit, all of the work is done by volunteers. Even Kindra and Vinny, who run CLAWS, only get paid in animal pellets and other things they clean up. Volunteering with CLAWS has taught me a lot of things, from working with wildlife, to working with people, and I enjoyed every moment of learning.

To start as a volunteer with CLAWS is to go right into working with the public. Everyone starts volunteering at a public educational event. Most people start as a spotter, someone who stands next to a holder and keeps the public from getting too close. However, I started out holding Grip the African raven, so right away I was talking to the public. Telling all these people why he was one of our permanent education birds and answering questions about Grip, ravens in general and CLAWS. I don’t normally like to talk to people but doing it to educate them about the birds made it easy. It helped, of course, that each bird’s story is like a script.  I learned how to talk to people, and that it’s not so hard to do if you're talking about something you enjoyed.
As I continued volunteering at more educational events, for the next 3 years I got to hold a variety of birds, such as Grip, the African raven, and Eastern Screech Owls. The Screech owls think they are very fierce, but are also very tiny. Both Grip and the Screech are level one birds. I also held The barn owl River and barred owl Watani level two birds. At a recent show, I got the privilege of holding Kiwi the Coopers hawk a level three bird. Holding all the different birds and learning their stories were amazing, each of them has a different personality and I enjoy holding Grip every bit as much as a Kiwi.
Other than at shows there is another way to volunteer, and that is to take phone shifts. On phone shifts calls are forwarded to your phone and people leave a message with their name, number, county and information about the animal they are concerned about. When on phones you listen to these messages and call the people back to tell them what they need to do, be that put the animal back in its nest, leave it alone, bring the animal in, or put them in contact with another rehabber in their area who can help when we can't.

Taking phone shifts requires you to talk to a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds and dispositions. Sometimes telling the person on the other end of the phone that they have a fledgling, a bird that has just left the nest and is learning to fly while it's parents continue to care for it a process that takes 1-3 days, and that they should return the bird where they found him and just let him be is easy. Sometimes it's not, people are often convinced that fledglings are full grown birds with broken wings or legs and they want to hear is that they are right and that they need to bring this animal to us or better yet bring it in and take care of it themselves which isn't legal.(?) you have to convince these people to do the right thing and take the bird outside and let him grow up. This is just one example of how you have to talk to people and even convince them that you know what you are doing and that the bird really will be fine in the wild. Taking phones doesn't have a fixed script, what is required to ask and say changes with every phone call and sometimes you have to contact Kindra to ask her what she wants done about a particular case because you don't know. Taking phones taught me to ask if I don't know and how to talk to a variety of people. Talking to people about animals also taught me patience because when someone calls you about an animal they think is injured they are generally scared for the animal and possibly have already talked to multiple people who couldn't or didn't help them before they get to you, so they might not be frustrated and not the most polite and open to what needs to be done. 

Lastly, over the summer, I got to volunteer at the base of operations for CLAWS. While volunteering over the summer, I did and learned so many things. I got to work with the injured animals who were coming in, but I also made food bowls for the permanent animals, I helped inventory supplies, and I filed paperwork and set up the filing system. Knowing how to be organized and take stock of what you have and what you need are important life skills both for work environments and everyday life.

Tatiana W.
Age 17

Volunteering for claws has, and continues to be, an incredible experience. I started volunteering when I was about ten, and I was incredibly shy and hated public speaking. However, from the first moment I held an owl in my hand (well actually on my arm) I would not stop talking. Over time, speaking while working with animals gives you the chance to develop your public speaking skills, because the crowd doesn't focus on you, they focus on the animal. This allows you to get comfortable speaking to crowds without immediately having all the attention on you. Aside from public speaking skills, just working with the animals is rewarding. Nothing feels better than seeing a small, sick, and/or injured animal come in, helping nurse it back to health, and then getting to see it be released into nature again. You also get to form a special bond with the permanent animals. You learn their habits, and even learn to pick up on their cues and body language. Over the years I have noticed that I've gotten better at picking up social cues with humans as a result of this. The experiences you have at claws stay with you forever, and volunteering there hasn't just taught me these skills, it has truly broadened my horizons and allowed me to meet some truly amazing people.

Stephen S.
Age 18

I like CLAWS. When I didn't volunteer with CLAWS, I was scared to be in front of crowds, but since I volunteer now, I'm not afraid of crowds anymore. I am comfortable because I held birds and I talked about them, so I'm more happy than scared. CLAWS taught me that rehabbers help animals. I was afraid of shots and the first time I saw one, I felt shaky. Then I learned that shots can help animals when they are sick and then I was not very scared.

Sunny L.
Age 8

I started at Claws over six months ago and ever since then, I have become more confident in public speaking, handling animals and taking on responsibility. It all started when I went to a Claws event and asked about volunteering. I was thrilled when they accepted me even though I was only 12 years old.

I started out as a spotter, which allowed me to observe the person holding a bird and pick up information about certain birds. I learned a lot about responsibility on my first event, when I got to hold Gimli, an Eastern Screech Owl. I had a more experienced volunteer watching me and making sure that I was handling the bird correctly, which helped me to understand the proper way to handle the bird hands on. Over time, I was allowed to hold other birds, as I learned more and more at each event.

Learning how to properly hold birds wasn't the only thing I learned during my short time with Claws so far. I also learned a lot about animals in general, weather it was on their very informative Facebook page, which is appropriate for children too, or through their willingness to answer any and all questions as accurately as possible.

I have learned about the many species that live in North Carolina, the anatomy of a bird,  and that not all owls are nocturnal. I have picked up many new words that are related to animals. I have also got the chance to learn how being a rehabilitator works.

Volunteering at Claws has given me the opportunity to speak to large crowds without being put on the spot. Because I'm usually holding a bird while talking to the public, I feel that I'm sharing the spotlight, which makes me more relaxed and gives me the chance to enjoy the experience.

I was also invited to a special class by Claws that went through the basics of bird first-aid. I got the chance to inject fluids into a barred owl, which I LOVED! I wouldn't have got the opportunity to get such hands on experience anywhere else, especially as I was only 12.

Over the months that I've been with Claws, I have gotten the chance to learn about the things that interest me the most. I have learned much more than any book can teach me thanks to the openness of Claws. I look forward to volunteering with them in the future.

Emma P.
Age 13

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