By Hannah Rodgers
Richmond University in Florence
As part of her Service learning project Hannah worked as a volunteer for “Unione Amici del Cane e del Gatto”, a non - profit volunteer organization located behind the Florence Airport which gives assistance, veterinary care, food, to 180 dogs rescued from all around the country of Italy and help them being adopted and find new homes.
I expected to walk into a nice and neat animal shelter where I could make friends with all of the animals, take them on walks, clean the kennels and them, and feed them. My goal in life is to become an animal trainer and work myself into rehabilitation. Because these were just dogs, I had no idea what I was going to actually learn from this situation. I cannot say that this experience met my expectations because my expectations were completely wrong, but the experience taught me so much more than what I thought about my career choice that I needed to know. Walking into this shelter and taking on these dogs was one of the hardest things that I have had to do. The shelters here aren’t kept up by the government and are solely donation based. The dogs weren’t living inside a building but inside small and rusty sheds. They were sick and being treated. Some had been abused and taught to fight. I wasn’t allowed to touch or even look at a lot more dogs than you’d expect. It takes a toll on you because when you want to help, these dogs don’t understand and before you can even try, you have to build a relationship with them. About halfway through this program, I became determined. Some people would have given up, but this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I built relationships, made friends, and even had to say goodbye to some as they were adopted. The sympathy towards the other volunteers and the animals grew every day that I came in. In the beginning, I was a little worried that the animals weren’t getting what they needed. Who could successfully take care of over 180 dogs? Looking back now, I have a completely new opinion on this. There are many volunteers and, of the many that I met while working, they are completely in love with each individual dog that they care for. They sneak the animals treats, and make sure they are healthy and happy. (..)There are a lot of things that I could have done differently, but I wouldn’t want to change anything that happened, even the dog bite. I have learned so much from my mistakes, and I feel as if I needed to make them in order to grow throughout this service learning process.
THE SERVICE LEARNING AND ACTIVE
CITIZENSHIP PROGRAM AT RICHMOND
Students wishing to get academic credit for their volunteer work can take the Active learning and Citizenship course, a 3 credit course combining an introductory lesson with a community placement and written work. The assessment is based on reflective learning, social analysis and public problem solving. Students can gain intellectual, professional and personal skills applicable in all fields. They are required to work approximately 8/10 hours a week and therefore advised to enroll in a maximum of 3 other courses.