This summer I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Animal Farm Foundation, located in Duchess County, NY, twice so far to present on the topics of Compassion Fatigue and self care. AFF’s annual summer internship programs, open to animal shelter and rescue workers, offer up a variety of workshops from hands-on dog training to lectures on the power of language and how to facilitate better adoptions.
The staff shared with me that in past internships, one of the recurring concerns interns brought up was how to handle burnout. So I was thrilled that we could incorporate Compassion Fatigue strategies into this year’s lineup.
Both times I had the privilege of meeting with dedicated and enthusiastic men and women who are committed to creating positive changes for people and pets in their communities around the country.
From animal control officers to volunteers, they’re all working in the challenging environment of animal welfare and I was so happy to be able to connect them to resources that will help them to continue doing their work, while also taking care of themselves.
But just because we’re talking about Compassion Fatigue, stress, and setting boundaries doesn’t mean we’re not having a good time!
There was a LOT of laughing around the table, especially when we realized how much we all have in common. Working and volunteering with animals presents us with unique and challenging circumstances that are often accompanied by a roller coaster of emotions – very rewarding highs and very upsetting lows.
Knowing that we’re not alone in our experiences and that there are tools to support us in this work is a powerful realization which can lead to healthy changes in our personal and professional lives.
The interns seemed to enjoy our discussions as much as I did! Here’s some of the feedback I received after the workshops:
“I’m realizing the importance of self awareness. It’s also reaffirming to have it recognized how hard it is in our field, especially when so many do not understand.” -AFF June ’14 Intern
“I felt that of all the compassion fatigue workshops, lectures I have attended over the 13 years in this field, yours was by far the most helpful and relatable.” – AFF June ’14 Intern
“I liked relating my shelter experiences with other people and with the speaker. I loved that you said to set our initial goals incredibly small so there’s no way that we can’t succeed.” – AFF May ’14 Intern
The internships continue through September, so I get to head back to AFF two more times this summer. In the meantime, I’m off to California at the end of this month for BAD RAP’s Rescue Jam!