Mullins reflects on experiential learning at the Barn Sanctuary

Mullins reflects on experiential learning at the Barn Sanctuary

Kate Mullins traded in her lacrosse stick for buckets and other farm equipment this summer as the rising junior volunteered once a week at the Barn Sanctuary in Chelsea, Mich.

"I help the staff and other volunteers with typical farm chores, such as cleaning out old bedding and straw, filling water troughs and feeding the animals," Mullins, a pre-veterinary student from Royal Oak, Mich., said. "Besides cleaning, I always spend time giving the animals attention with plenty of hugs and scratches."

An animal lover who grew up dreaming about living on a farm, Mullins has said her experience has only enhanced her desire to become a veterinarian. In addition to the fulfillment she gets from being surrounded by cows, goats, donkeys and pigs, she is excited to learn about specialties in the field and educating the public.

"Many of the animals that arrive at the sanctuary need specialized care, ranging from a calf receiving treatment for a burn to sheep fitted for prosthetic legs," Mullins said. "The staff works to rescue animals from these dangerous situations and are transparent about the reality of the animals' previous lives. They aren't concerned with sugar coating the truth, and I have consequently gained a better understanding of the role of animals in our society.

"The sanctuary recently opened its doors to the public, which offers a new opportunity for educating more people about animals that are otherwise seen as inferior or looked down upon," she added, noting she first began volunteering at the site during the break between the fall and spring semesters when it open to just volunteers. "It was unusual to experience Barn Bash, the first public event, in June. People came from all over the country to visit the sanctuary, front Maine to Chicago to Texas."

Mullins said the attendance at the opening event was her introduction to the power of social media.

"It proved that the Barn Sanctuary's fans and sponsors are not limited by geography," Mullins said. "It was truly a testament to the positive power of social media and its ability to bring people together in a positive, powerful movement."

While chores related to the care of animals can be intense, Mullins has learned the importance of taking time to get to know fellow volunteers.

"I've learned the important lesson of taking time to relax and enjoy the moment," Mullins said. "Taking the time to stop and talk with fellow volunteers has facilitated interesting conversations with a diverse array of people from all walks of life.

"And I take the time to pause and acknowledge the animals at the sanctuary," she added. "Despite our society's treatment of non-pet animals, each animal on the farm has shown their sentience and love of life, and they deserve to be respected."

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