A Day in the Life of a Volunteer at Ferne Animal Sanctuary: An Interview with Harry

Jun 4, 2024

In celebration of Volunteer Week, we had the pleasure of speaking with Harry a dedicated volunteer at Ferne Animal Sanctuary. Based in the beautiful Blackdown Hills in Somerset Ferne Animal Sanctuary provides refuge and rehabilitation for over 300 animals at its 72-acre working sanctuary, and employs over 120 volunteers at its sanctuary and retail stores throughout Somerset and Devon.

Known for its compassionate care and dedication to animal welfare, Ferne Animal Sanctuary thrives with the support of volunteers like Harry, who devote their time and energy to helping animals in need.

Harry has been a volunteer for a few months. Here’s a glimpse into their daily life working at the sanctuary.

What motivated you to volunteer for Ferne Animal Sanctuary?

I’ve always had a deep love for horses, and volunteering at Ferne Animal Sanctuary seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my passion with valuable work experience that could help me secure a job in the future. I also enjoy learning new things, especially when it involves caring for animals.


How did you hear about the volunteering opportunities at Ferne Animal Sanctuary?

I used to visit the sanctuary frequently, so I was already familiar with their work and mission. I was curious about how I could get involved so I visited the website and found out about the volunteering opportunities there.


Have you ever volunteered for other organisations before joining Ferne Animal Sanctuary?

I have always been keen to help where I can. Before I joined Ferne Animal Sanctuary, I volunteered with an equine therapy charity and a health and social care organisation.


Which department do you volunteer in?

I volunteer in the equine department, where some animals are here for rehabilitation and rehoming and others are permanent residents. Every horse is different, and some will stay here for the rest of their lives as they have medical or behavioural issues which makes them quite difficult to rehome.


Can you describe your typical duties and responsibilities as a volunteer?

My typical duties include cleaning the stables, mucking out the beds, preparing feed and hay nets, and turning the horses out. I also help with general duties like vet visits and fencing. I get lots on nose nuzzles and the occasional cuddle in my day, especially when it’s time to feed!


How much time do you dedicate to volunteering each week or month?

It fits very easily into my life, I look forward to it every week. I volunteer every Monday and Tuesday from 8 am to 5 pm, but some volunteers give a little more or a little less each week. Any help to the sanctuary is valuable so they always work with volunteers to find something that is flexible and suits you. The routine keeps me busy, and I enjoy doing a full day of work. I never realize how quickly the time flies by, every day is different, and the team is great fun to work with. Volunteering at the beginning of the week is a great way to start on a high note by doing something I love.


What skills or qualities are most important in your volunteering role at Ferne Animal Sanctuary?

There are so many! If I were to pick a few, I would say teamwork, communication, patience with animals, understanding their history and responding appropriately, listening, and time management are all crucial skills. Because each day brings new experiences, I feel like I am constantly developing new skills and growing in my role.


What kind of training or support did you receive when you started volunteering?

When I started, the team talked me through how the sanctuary works, and the general working practices. I had an introduction to each of the horses and their specific needs, the team answered all my questions about caring for the animals. As part of my induction I spent time shadowing team members before I began working on my own.


How do you feel your volunteer work contributes to the mission of Ferne Animal Sanctuary?

My work at Ferne Animal Sanctuary promotes the healthy treatment and care of horses, many of whom have not experienced this level of care before arriving here. Beyond my duties at the sanctuary, I also share what I learn about animal welfare with my family, friends, and neighbours, advocating for better treatment of animals in my community.


How do you think volunteering has impacted your personal or professional life?

Volunteering keeps me active, helps me learn new things, and develops my soft skills like teamwork and following instructions. Working with animals is incredibly fulfilling, it gives me something enjoyable to do and helps me maintain my animal care skills.


What do you enjoy most about volunteering for Ferne Animal Sanctuary?

Every day is special and different, I’m not supposed to have favourites, but I have a soft spot for a horse called Santa who I love grooming, he is such a sweet horse. I love being around horses and helping out. I can’t imagine working in an office; getting dirty and smelling like the stables is a small price to pay for the reward I get from the horses.


Have you faced any challenges or obstacles in your volunteer role? If so, how did you overcome them?

I initially struggled with the pace of work but the team were incredibly supportive and I’m working on getting faster while maintaining accuracy to keep up with the team. Everyone is here to help and works very closely with me to develop my skills.


How does Ferne Animal Sanctuary recognize and appreciate the efforts of its volunteers?

The team has been kind and patient while I have been learning, and everyone is very friendly. I felt very welcome from the start. They also have a Volunteer of the Year award and give gifts at Christmas.


Would you recommend volunteering with Ferne Animal Sanctuary to others?

Yes, definitely. It’s an amazing place to support animals and learn new skills. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to work outside—it’s wonderful.

As Volunteer Week is celebrated, Harry’s story is an inspiring reminder of the impact individuals can have when they dedicate their time and energy to a cause they believe in.