At the Dumb Friends League, we often talk about how we could not do what we do without the work of our more than 1,400 volunteers. We also believe that kids learn responsibility, leadership and compassion through volunteerism and recognize that it’s not always easy to find opportunities to serve when you’re young. Enter the Dumb Friends League Junior Volunteer Club (JVC).
Children under the age of 16, cannot officially volunteer at the League, but they can enroll in the JVC. This five-month club introduces future animal advocates ages 12 – 15 to the benefits of volunteering in a shelter and teaches them the importance of treating animals humanely. Students learn about relevant animal welfare topics and how to be champions for those who cannot speak for themselves.
JVC members meet at the Quebec Street Shelter once a month for two hours, and there are two sessions each month on either the second or third Saturday. One of the League’s community educators leads the program and divides the participants into small groups before they are paired with adult volunteers and learn about and work in four different areas of the shelter, including dog walking, dog kennel cleaning, cat kennel cleaning and small mammal kennel cleaning. JVC participants rotate areas to experience all aspects of the program.
The JVC program is a hands-on approach to educating kids about animal care in the shelter. When visiting the animal holding areas, volunteers become familiar with different species, including their behaviors and needs. Kids also learn to recognize when an animal is comfortable or maybe needs some alone time. Learning to respect an animal’s need for time and space is just as important as knowing the proper way to clean an animal’s enclosure.
“The JVC program is an awesome introduction for kids who either want to volunteer at a shelter or for those who are interested in working with animals as a future career,” said Community Educator Lauren Pipis. “The program provides some real, hands-on experience working with the animals in our care and gives kids an opportunity to understand what’s really involved when it comes to volunteering at the League. We love to see them learn throughout the program not only about the animals but also about how they can make a difference in the world!”
When a JVC member successfully completes the program, he/she can apply to be a junior mentor, which is for teens 13 – 18. Junior mentors build on their JVC experiences and help with various Humane Education programs and camps. Not everyone who applies to be a junior mentor is accepted into the program, but kids can still volunteer at the League with one of their parents until they are old enough to volunteer on their own.
The JVC program can spark excitement and create a passion for helping animals and contributing to our communities. The lessons learned through the program stay with JVC members and cultivate a spirit of altruism that extends beyond the shelter. To learn more about the JVC or other youth volunteer opportunities at the League, visit ddfl.org/youth-volunteering.
Have a story you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it, click here to share your story!