Materials for Activity
- Information about local animal and pet shelters that you have collected in advance
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- Local phone books
Preparation for Activity
- Collect information about local animal shelters and how youth can assist them.
Description of Activity
This activity asks youth to consider working in their own communities to help domestic animals.
Introduce the activity by saying that people often think of "being called" as something that happens in adulthood. It is possible for young people to feel called to do good things, too. These young people just know deep inside that they want to do something good to help make the world better for other people-or for animals.
In fact, working to save and protect animals appeals to many children and many youth. For Unitarian Universalists, this is a good way to honor the seventh Principle, which asks us to respect the "interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." This means all living things, not just people. For this session's Faith in Action, the group will explore some ways to help in its own community.
Say that animal rescue programs and shelters provide excellent opportunities for exploring right and wrong. Ask, "Why are animals and pets so often abandoned? What can you do to keep this from happening? What can you do to help the animals already in shelters?"
Ask if anybody in the group has ever volunteered at a dog shelter or a cat shelter or in another program to help animals. Was the experience fun? Did they feel good about it? What are some of the places they have volunteered? List any places they mention on newsprint.
Pass out any information you have collected about local shelters, along with phone books. Give youth a few minutes to look through the resources. Then ask the youth to share what they have found.
Ask if the youth are interested in working at such shelters, either as a group or with their own families. If interest is strong, arrange to have leaders and youth follow through before you next meet. One activity shelters commonly allow youth to help with is collecting newspapers. Some shelters require youth to be fourteen years old to volunteer, but they may welcome younger children with adult supervision. Perhaps a parent or two will assist in finding out more or arranging a trip to a shelter.
Seek creative ways to help. Could youth decorate the waiting rooms or office areas? How about persuading their family vet to donate vouchers for a free visit to anyone adopting from the shelter? Plan to return to this subject and possible project when you next meet.
Be sure to ask in the course of your research whether shelters put animals down or adhere to no-kill policies. Knowing that the animals they work with may be put to death can be difficult for youth, but it also may increase their enthusiasm for trying to save them. If the only option for volunteering in your area is with agencies that put down unadoptable animals, assess very carefully how you think your youth will handle that and involve parents in your decisions about how to proceed.
Alternate Approach: Another possibility to consider for your group is helping to plan and produce a blessings-of-the-animals event. Typically, church members and their friends, families, and children would bring pets to celebrate, appreciate, and share though worship, readings, songs, and social gathering. Youth may help in a number of ways-by bringing their own animals and by assisting younger children with handling and caring for their pets. At one such event, a congregation took instant photographs of animals and their owners and then framed the pictures with simple craft-stick photo frames, sold the pictures to families at reasonable prices, and donated the money to a local animal rescue organization.
Including All Participants
If you have participants with limited reading ability, let youth pair up and look through the resources together. Be sure to find a good and useful role for any youth who cannot work directly with animals because of allergies or other reasons.