Every week, members and partners of the Michigan Active Citizens Alternative Spring Break (MAC-ASB) community will share their stories through our blog, which is a series of narratives inspired by the experiences, memories, and meanings made and shared through ASB trips. This week, we bring an experience from site leader Nolan Bick, a sophomore at the University of Michigan.
I was first exposed to the ASB organization when my older sister participated on ASB trips for two years when she was an undergrad. Both times when she came back from her trips, she had about a dozen stories to tell me and my parents about how awesome her trip was, and what they actually ended up doing for a week in a community so unlike the ones we were used to. As a current high school student who was pretty much locked at home for the entirety of my spring breaks, these trips sounded like an experience that I needed to try. So as that typical freshmen student walking around Festifall writing down my email for any club or organization that half interested me, I stumbled into a friendly looking group with Alternative Spring Break at the top of their board. I struck up a conversation with them and was delighted to hear the group at Michigan was similar to what my sister participated in for those two years. Fast forward a couple weeks, and I received an email from 2 site leaders titled, “Congratulations ASB Animal Welfare Participants!” I was ecstatic to have selected and was excited to find out all about what our trip was doing.
Throughout our meetings before our trip, we learned more about our site and a whole bunch of issues with animal welfare that I didn’t even know existed. Before the trip, we didn’t really know what we would be doing. Our trip was headed to Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary in Hubert, North Carolina where they housed wild animals that were sick, injured, or orphaned. We had no idea what to expect, and for me, the ambiguous nature of our work just make me more excited for our trip. We also spent a lot of time learning about different problems in the broad topic of animal welfare. From cruel sports, to neglect and mistreatment of wildlife, the topic of animal welfare was a topic that included issues I never even saw as issues before. Our group learned about how just simple actions could start to combat some of these issues. As our trip planning progressed, we started to relate the topics we talked about to the issues we were going to learn about during the trip.
The time for our trip came and we had a long and crammed 12 hour road trip ahead of us. From countless games of “Never have I ever…” and long fights on who gets to control the aux cord, we arrived in North Carolina and head to our site early next morning. As we pulled into our site, we instantly saw how different the community we were entering was compared to our home of Ann Arbor. Large turkeys, ducks, and peacocks had free roam of the place and weren’t bashful to say hello with a quick bite on your legs. We spent the first few hours learning more about the site, what they did on a day to day basis, and what they expected of us for the days we would be volunteering there. Our group split up and went to different areas of the site to do different tasks. Most of the work we did was very simple tasks, but each of these tasks were labor intensive and time consuming. The site didn’t have the manpower to do even start some of these jobs as they still had their other more important jobs to do every day. On one day, a small group of us was needed to feed and medicate some of the sicker and more injured animals that were housed inside. This by far was one of the experiences where I can say that my week included some of the most unique volunteering anyone has ever done. Not many people can say they pushed a syringe full of antibiotics down a pelican’s throat.
Another day during our trip we headed to The Lynnwood Park Zoo to volunteer at a local zoo for the day. We arrived there and immediately saw how different the zoo was. We first met Gary, the man in charge of the zoo, and he told us that he started this zoo by using donations from the community and donated exotic animals. He built each animal enclosure by hand and worked nearly everyday at this 10-acre zoo that took up his whole backyard. After our little meet and greet with Gary, he asked us all a very random question, “Does anyone want to study medicine or veterinary medicine?” Unknowingly, I raised my hand. He then told me about his goat that was in labor and he needed some help with the delivery. After a few injections of antibiotics and painkillers, this complete stranger coached me through a still birth of a baby goat. He explained that if that mama goat didn’t complete giving birth within another hour or so, he would have lost the mama goat as well. To this day, I’m still speechless about how I was given the opportunity to do this within the first 20 minutes of meeting a complete stranger. We spent the entire day doing work that the zoo needed to open up to the public in a few short weeks. Without our help, Gary wouldn’t have been able to open the park on time because he was too busy trying to care for a zoo and over 100 animals by himself.
Over the course of the week at Possumwood Acres and The Lynnwood Park Zoo, we met countless number of genuine people that followed their passions regardless of how much money they made doing so or how hard they had to work to keep their passions alive. Most of them worked tirelessly sunup to sundown, 7 days a week, without any reward back to them. Some of these volunteers were just like us students, taking college courses 5 days a week, but instead they were also working 40 hours a week at the places they loved. Both locations ran completely on donations and the workers never knew when the next set of donations would come in to let them even buy food needed for their animals. They worked at these places just because they truly cared about the work they did and the animals they got to care for. Everyday, the work they did wasn’t glamorous and most of it were jobs an average people wouldn’t do, but the work they did was necessary for their community and the animals they cared for.
The people I met over just the course of one week were absolutely extraordinary and awe-inspiring. They put in countless hours every week to combat the local animal welfare issues in their community where I just learned about half of those issues a few months before. Each person I met had a very simple passion and basically devoted their lives to their passion. My Alternative Spring Break trip opened my eyes to a world of social justice issues that I previously thought were impossible to fight. My week in North Carolina lit a fire inside of me to take that genuine passion I saw in everyone down there, and spread that passion in my home communities. This led me to becoming a site leader for an Environmental Justice MAC-ASB trip to Golden Pond, Kentucky this year. I want to spread that same care and kindness I learned last year to even more people and more MAC-ASB participants. One thing that Gary and the people at Possumwood Acres taught me is that there is always more work that could be done, which is why I continue MAC-ASB.