Rescue comes in many forms at Alaqua Animal Refuge—and it’s not just for animals.
At its best, rescue benefits both the animals and the humans who interact with them. Many youngsters are reaping benefits of their own through Alaqua’s Young Rescuers Club.
Armed with a belief that interacting with animals is good for the soul, and with research that shows it is beneficial in child development, Alaqua has developed a community outreach program that pairs children with animals, allowing them to spend quality time together.
The animals—many of which have come from abusive or neglectful situations—flourish as a result of increased attention and interaction with eager young rescuers. The children learn valuable lessons in compassion and responsibility.
Studies show those who struggle with social skills or developmental issues are more at ease when connecting with animals. These connections help build confidence and develop habits for social interaction that benefit them in other activities, too.
Program options for children range from animal care and feeding to playtime activities and story time. As children read to their partner animal, they build their own life skills in a fun way that yields visible results in the attention and exuberance of the animals.
Alaqua describes the benefits of the program this way:
“There are so many different ways that young volunteers can lend a helping hand here at Alaqua, and we always find that the children thoroughly enjoy the time that they spend here at the facility. These children are able to learn the importance of giving back to their community while also learning how to interact with a wide variety of different animals. We believe that one of the best parts about the Young Rescuers Club is that children are learning what it means to have compassion for all animals. It would be difficult for anyone to spend any significant amount of time at our facility and not feel a connection to our animals. This is such an important lesson for children to learn, and it is a lesson that will shape them into more compassionate adults in the future.”
The program introduces the responsibilities of pet ownership to children before making the commitment to adopt one.
For Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood and her staff, the program is one of many that fosters community involvement and furthers the goal of providing a healing place for both animals and people.
In addition to the Young Rescuers Club, Alaqua offers adult volunteer opportunities, equine interactions and educational programs for school and community groups.