Participants in the voluntourism project during last year's AVMA Annual Convention in New Orleans had their work cut out for them. They spent hours painting, replacing ceiling tiles, and tackling various repairs for animal shelters still showing the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. Yet they showed up by the dozens, eager to help however they could.
American Veterinary Medical Foundation Executive Director Michael Cathey said the project was a visible and impactful way for convention attendees to represent the Foundation's mission of embracing the well-being and medical care of animals.
"It was our experience that all who participated came away feeling a great sense of accomplishment, and in fact, everyone had fun with this hard work. It ended up not really being work at all," Cathey said.
Bolstered by the event's success, the Foundation will give volunteers another crack at helping local shelters for two days during this year's convention in Seattle.
The AVMF Oath in Action Voluntourism Project gives convention attendees the opportunity to put the Veterinarian's Oath in action by combining tourism with volunteerism. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians, veterinary students, family members, and other conventioneers are welcome to participate.
Although the New Orleans area shelters were in critical need from the effects of Katrina, many animal shelters nationwide are underfunded, and shelter staff usually have little time to do even minor repairs and touch-up jobs because their first priority is taking care of the animals.
This year's projects are not yet finalized but will include a variety of tasks suited to volunteers' shelter interests. According to the Seattle Humane Society, area shelters took in 5,140 cats and dogs, and adopted out 4,108 in the past year.
Volunteers can sign up for one or both days when registering for the convention. Children must be 13 years of age or older and be accompanied by an adult to participate. Space is limited to 125 participants per day. The AVMF will provide transportation to and from the work sites.
Participants will be contacted by Foundation staff with further details. Those who can't volunteer in Seattle may contribute by donating money to help defray the costs incurred in repairing and upgrading the shelters.
For more information or to make a donation, contact Monique Buonincontro, AVMF grants coordinator, at (800) 248-2862, Ext. 6691, or mbuonincontroavma [dot] org.