In fifth grade, my teacher challenged every kid in my class to “do something to change the world. Starting today.” Every eleven-year-old in the room nodded, hopeful but also doubtful. Change the world, you mean, like, plant a tree? I wondered. What could a fifth-grader do the change the world?
One of my friends decided she was going to volunteer at an animal shelter. She did all the research, and found exactly one shelter in all of Seattle that did not specify the minimum volunteer age. This was Animal Talk Rescue, a non-profit, no-kill hole-in-the-wall with an owner who might have been just a little crazy. In a good way, of course. My entire friend group decided to start working there, and over the next two years I logged over 100 hours cleaning mice cages and feeding the iguana (his name was Boot). It was a good way to get started volunteering, but didn’t really offer me any experience I could actually use.
I stopped going to Animal Talk somewhere in the seventh grade, mostly because I didn’t feel I was of any use. My friends and I were not the only ones who had struggled to find suitable volunteer locations, it seemed. Because of its lack of a minimum volunteer age, the people at Animal Talk were almost exclusively high-schoolers struggling to complete their service learning credit. There were so many kids who wanted to work there, you had to sign up for spots sometimes months in advance. I couldn’t help but wonder, am I really doing anything worthwhile, or am I just filling another spot? Continue reading