Hello everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve written to you. So many important events have been going on. Our little sister, (or Pigeon, as we like to call her), turned 3 last month, my mom’s about to go on her [second] Disney Red Carpet event, my 14th birthday is coming up next week, and my sister and I are going to be volunteering at the Dallas Zoo.
My sister, Elyssa, and I applied to be volunteers with the Dallas Zoo a few months ago, and we were really excited to do our interview. Our interviews went really well, and we even got to spend a day at the zoo afterwards. Since then, we were hoping, preparing, and hoping more for a good answer.
Ecstatic is the most appropriate word to describe us when we realized we had been accepted! (Confession: I still jump up and down and scream when I’m excited… I think that’s one thing that will never change, no matter how old I get. LOL)
After waking up early, I got ready, had breakfast, and I was on my way with mom to the Dallas Zoo. When we got there, I thought it was hilarious that the workers at the zoo thought mom was a youth volunteer also. Since my mom is 4’9″, she was thought to be my sister, not my mom.
As I entered the auditorium where orientation would be taking place, I was greeted cheerfully by one of the friendliest and brightest people I have met, the youth volunteer coordinator.
All of the youth volunteers, including me, introduced ourselves with our name, age, and favorite animal, and afterwards we played a fun game to get to know each other.
After that, we went through several safety rules and guidelines, and our code of conduct. I loved learning about the Dallas Children’s Zoo mission statement, which we were encouraged to remember and strive to follow:
To inspire an appreciation for animals and a stewardship of the environment through fun and educational discoveries for all children.
As a youth volunteer, we are focused on service, respect, and education. These three principles are important to being good citizens in our world.
Service is important because it gives us a sense of responsibility. Helping those around us helps us develop compassion and love for others, and also for ourselves. Service boosts our self-confidence, and helps us learn the value of hard work.
Respect goes along with service. It means appreciating others and acknowledging that others have needs and wants as well. It’s being unselfish and choosing to be kind. Treating others with love and consideration inspires them to do the same. You can’t expect respect without giving it to others, too.
Education involves learning important skills of following instructions, connecting with others, and also teaching others. My mom likes to say that when you teach, you learn even more than the student. Your knowledge always stays with you, and no matter how little you think you know, you have talents that are uniquely yours. Develop them and use them to help, uplift, and encourage those around you.
There is a specific rule for never teasing or mistreating ANY animal or human, and to never pass litter without picking it up. I think there is never a good reason to hurt someone, and that animals also matter, since they have feelings. Also, if we all pitch in, and pick up a few pieces of trash a day, think of the difference we can make in the world.
We went over the rule that phones are not to be used during our shift. I think it’s good that they made this rule because the spirit of volunteering is to serve, and do your best. The best way to serve is to be present and listen, but sometimes electronics and other media can distract us.
We were taught an acronym to help us remember how to handle an animal and keep ourselves and others safe. Like I mentioned earlier, animals have feelings, too, and treating them with respect and love is safe for everyone.
I’m really excited because this is almost like a job, we’ll be checking in and out every week, bringing our own lunch, and working as a team. I think that this is a great opportunity and challenge for me to do better. I hope you will be able to have a chance to volunteer because it can teach you many things while having fun in the process.
So, to sum up, be responsible, safe, and remember to have fun! What lessons have you learned in volunteering? I’m excited to hear from you!