For the last four weeks, I volunteered at Piedi per la Terra at Vigna di San Martino. During most of the year the program works with the public to provide them an organic natural experience. The goal is to promote organic food production and give people an appreciation for where their food comes from. It also reminds patrons to have a thorough respect for their environment and how their actions affect the world around them. However, during the summer, school is out and many people in the area go on vacation. During this time, the program hosts children at week-long summer camps. In a city where there is very little green space, it offers a great chance for children to spend time outdoors.
My volunteer time coincided with these summer camps. Vincenzo had a goal to get the animals interacting more with the children and vice versa. So here’s where I stepped in. The chickens, rabbits, and donkeys were very much loved at the Vigna, but some had minimal human contact. I came in daily with fun treats and talked and played with them while I provided basic care such as food, water, and cleaning. I brushed the donkeys and held the chickens and rabbits often. They were all very good and it wasn’t long before they were literally eating from my hand.
The children would come down daily and spend a little bit of time with the animals. I showed them how to be kind to and gentile with the animals, which was a new challenge for me. I don’t have much experience working with young children. As time progressed, the animals tolerated their presence more and more. By my fourth week, the animals easily let the children pet them and pick them up. It was so rewarding for me to see the children and the animals becoming so calm around each other.
Over the past month, I learned that in urban communities in Europe, conservation awareness boils down to reacquainting the community with nature. This is very similar to America, I think, as populations grow increasingly farther from their roots in nature. And it’s hard to understand the need or want to protect the environment. I hope the time I spent with the animals and children at the Vigna carries on into some life long love for all animals and I certainly hope more volunteers find value in working with these animals in the future.