Abby Torres, ReEmployAbility’s IT Director, started volunteering with Forever Wild Avian Sanctuary in Tucson during COVID as a way to connect with her community, introduce her daughter to volunteerism, and help animals in need. Abby has volunteered with the sanctuary since last October and says it has helped her and her daughter stay engaged and positive when many of their regular activities have been postponed.

Forever Wild Avian Sanctuary rescues and cares for parrots, chickens, domestic ducks, geese, pheasants, peafowl, turkeys, and other domestic fowl. Birds at the sanctuary have been surrendered by owners who could no longer care for the animal, were found injured, or are unable to care for themselves. 

Abby volunteers with her daughter several time a week and on the weekends. The sanctuary has plenty of work for volunteers and Abby and her daughter help by cleaning enclosures, giving animals fresh food and water, and the essential task of spending time with the birds that crave social interaction. Abby also manages the sanctuary’s social media platforms and website to assist with their technology needs.

“Volunteering at Forever Wild has given my daughter and me a sense of purpose outside of our own home bubble and routine,” said Abby. “We’ve made friends and learned a lot about the animals and the need in the community.”

We sat down with Abby to talk about her experience.

What made you decide to volunteer and why at the sanctuary?

I work from home with my girls doing virtual school and my husband is away for the military. This forced us to think outside the box for things to do outside of the house to stay busy. Due to COVID, my daughter stopped taking horseback riding lessons. She loves animals, and was really missing that interaction, so we called a few animal sanctuaries and rescues to see who would allow a 12-year-old to volunteer. Forever Wild allowed her to volunteer, as long as I was with her. We visited and we both fell in love with the birds on our first visit and knew we wanted to be a part of it.

Is this your daughter’s first time volunteering?

Yes, this is my daughter’s first-time volunteering, and she loves it! She has made friends, taken on responsibilities and learned a ton. It’s been everything I hoped it would be.

Did COVID stay at home orders affect your decision to get involved? If so, how?

Absolutely! We desperately needed to get out of the house and reconnect with the world outside our walls. We needed to interact with someone or something else besides each other or a screen. It was also important to show my daughter that even when the sky seems to be falling and there is so much outside of our control, we can always find a way to be useful and make a difference.   

How have you become more involved since October? Why?

Since we started in October, I’ve learned so much, not only about the birds, but also about how the organization functions. As soon as I felt comfortable and knew enough to make suggestions on improvements, I started keeping a list of projects and brainstorming with the owner.

I created a central ‘volunteer board’ where the volunteers can communicate between shifts. I’ve organized monthly “Project Saturday” events where all regular volunteers (and anyone who shows up ready to get dirty) tackle the big projects that have been waiting to be done, like repairing the fences in the enclosures, sorting old cages and donated items and reorganizing and deep cleaning the buildings.

I have big plans for fundraising, but none that I’ve been able to execute yet. I’m organizing a big “cage sale” that will take place on our project Saturday in March, which will be the first fundraiser I assist with.

What has surprised you most since you started volunteering there?

I have become WAY more emotionally attached to a few geese, chickens, and pigeons than I ever thought I would!

How can others in the Tucson area get involved?

You can visit http://forever-wild.org/ to donate or complete a volunteer application for Forever Wild Avian Sanctuary but I encourage everyone to look into their local bird sanctuary to help their local wildlife.

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