By Cassidy Taylor, AIWC summer staff member and volunteer
“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.”Jane Goodall
As Jane said, every individual matters, and at the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) that couldn’t be more true. Our primary mission at AIWC is to help rescue, rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned wildlife. That mission may sound quite simple; however, did you know that it takes six full-time staff, several part-time staff and over 130 dedicated volunteers all working together to make that mission a reality and a success? Since AIWC’s founding in 1993, over 32,000 animals have been able to receive care due to the many incredible and likeminded individuals who have devoted their time, skills, enthusiasm, and hearts to helping Alberta’s wildlife.
The volunteers at AIWC are not only important, but they are critical to all of our various operations. 2021 has been one of the busiest years on record, with over 1750 animals admitted into care and over 8500 volunteer hours accumulated to date. Every single hour is spent helping wildlife in some capacity. Whether answering phone calls from concerned members of the public, preparing food and feeding patients, folding laundry or transporting wildlife, each task is equally essential to AIWC’s daily operations.
In their own words
We recently conducted a survey asking our volunteers questions about themselves and their AIWC journey so far. These individuals come from diverse backgrounds, educations, ages and even provinces!
Why did you initially start volunteering at AIWC?
“I love wildlife and I have always wanted to help in some way. My dream is to go back to school and work in the conservation field once my kids are school-aged, but in the meantime, I thought volunteering would be the perfect way to help.”
“I had to do a practicum as part of my graphic design college course and wanted to do something meaningful. That was over five years ago, and I have been volunteering ever since.”
“I wanted to help sick and injured wildlife, who mostly come to harm through their interactions with humans.”
What skills have you developed as a result of volunteering?
“The most valuable skill I’ve learned is how to approach wild animals in a way that is the least stressful to them.
“Definitely patience – as well as increasing my knowledge about Alberta’s wildlife.”
“I have learned how to interact proficiently with the public regarding wildlife concerns and rescues.”
What is the most rewarding part about volunteering at AIWC?
“I am a rescue driver and getting injured animals to care is why I do it. I love nature and want to help it along. A bonus is doing successful releases and learning about where and what do at those junctions.”
“I love learning about different species and their care requirements.”
“Knowing that any work I do, be it cleaning, feeding, rescuing or the inevitable laundry helps our patients well-being and progress towards their release.”
“Meeting with people who care about wildlife.”
What do you find challenging about volunteering at AIWC?
“I think for me with such a busy schedule is finding the time, but when I do volunteer its very rewarding.”
“Distance to get to the clinic.” (AIWC is located in Madden, Alberta)
“In the busy season things can be very fast paced! While some situations may be challenging, they are also opportunities to grow and develop; both as a volunteer and as a person.”
What keeps you motivated to volunteer at AIWC?
“Knowing that I am playing a role, no matter how seemingly small, in helping animals that come into care.”
“Helping the hard-working staff at AIWC!”
“Knowing that my photography helps AIWC show the public what it is that they do, which hopefully helps AIWC raise more funds, which in turn allows AIWC to help more animals. Plus, the response to my work from the staff is so positive that it makes me want to keep helping.”
“Giving a chance to animals that would not have one otherwise and contributing to conservation efforts to maintain our local wildlife.”
A personal message to the volunteers:
From the bottom of my heart, thank you. I had the immense privilege to work closely with many of you over the summer months as a summer student. I am absolutely blown away by the resilience, dedication and positivity that you all carry yourselves with. There were several challenging days, as one can expect, but I can wholeheartedly say that every single time that you signed up for a shift, you made a difference. You showed up, gave every effort and never turned down an opportunity to provide help. I feel so grateful to be surrounded by people like you. Your passion to help wildlife is what continuously inspires me to stay involved and to keep going no matter how hard things might get. In that way, volunteering feels special because it creates an environment where a group of people collectively share a common goal, can give back to the community and offer a sense of fulfillment (and fun) into our lives. Everything that you do for AIWC is appreciated and recognized.
You make a difference.
You are important.
Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do.
Want to become part of AIWC’s volunteer team?
Volunteering has the ability to bring so much joy into people’s lives – whether it began from wanting to gain experience in your field, learning new skills, meeting new people or just for fun! Learn about our opportunities here https://www.aiwc.ca/get-involved/volunteer/individual-volunteering/ or email our Community Engagement Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org