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Junior Ambassadors School Holiday Program

Have you ever wanted to know what it was like to volunteer for the RSPCA?
After many requests for opportunities to help all creatures great and small in a hands-on way from parents of passionate, animal loving kids, RSPCA Queensland’s Education Department trialled the first ever week-long Junior Ambassador School Holiday Program!

The program was open to children aged 10 to 15 with a maximum number of applicants capped at 10. This was to ensure everyone was able to fully participate in all the activities planned. The Junior Ambassadors were here from Monday to Friday, 9 ‘til 3:30 - only stopping to have lunch and take a deep breath as there were so many tasks to get through.
  

“The idea was to provide a look inside the work of the RSPCA, to immerse the children in the actual day to day routines of staff and volunteers,” said Senior Education Officer Daryl Joy. “To show that looking after those animals unfortunate enough to be homeless, the less than glamorous side of the work inside a shelter.” 

The kids looked right at home in a printed RSPCA Junior Crew T-Shirt and helped in nearly every department within the Brisbane RSPCA Animal Care Campus. Departments separate to Animal Care, and critical to the success of what we accomplish, provided a deeper insight into how we operate. 

It was not just playing with puppies and kittens, although this was a big part of the week, much to the delight of the kids… “Can we go back to the kittens?”. It was getting in, seeing and helping with everyday chores within the Wacol Animal Care Campus. 

As every pet owner knows, cleaning, picking up poo, food preparation and exercise are important and there was plenty of all that. They saw, smelled and in some cases touched other bodily fluids, albeit with gloves, PPE or in one case their shirt. “Lizard pee washes out, right?”. 


Our focus is of course animal welfare and those attending were exposed to some animals that may not be in perfect condition. We of course were very aware not to show those animals in extreme conditions to those attending. 

“As this program was designed to show what we face every day there were some trauma, injury and sickness cases that we came across. When on site, and particularly in the hospitals, we were very careful that the kids did not see anything deemed inappropriate for their age group,” remarked Daryl. 


In the domestic animal hospital the kids were given a choice to observe, from distance, medical procedures such as desexing, dental and even an amputation. Some were a bit more enthusiastic than others, and that’s fine, but how often do you get to see the amazing work of the RSPCA vets who give these animals the very best chance at a happy and healthy life? 

Later in the week we caught up with some of these now three-legged kittens to see how they fared and without exception they were moving about as if nothing had happened. If anything we needed the felines to calm down a bit, but what can you do when kittens are staring at you?

We microchipped our own (plush) pet and discussed the importance of effective identification. We followed animals having anaesthetic, pre-surgery prep and recovery including getting microchips and desex tattoos. Nothing beats carrying anaesthetised kittens to their recovery pens and tucking them in. 


Our Animal Ambulance staff gave an insight into their role and shared appropriate stories of what happens when people make bad choices regarding the care of their pets or disregard for our native animals. 

“We all need to take action when we see an animal in distress and learning what to do to give the animal the best chance to survive until help arrives is critical,” was the message from Humane Advocate Officer Chantel. 


As a charity it was important our Fundraising team shared how RSPCA raises $48 million a year to provide for those animals needing our help. The Junior Ambassadors came up with an event, decided what would make it attractive to the community and discovered that budgeting for everything is not always easy. 

Fundraising Coordinator Claire commented, “The brainstorm session reflected a bit too closely to what the Fundraising team meetings were like, maybe we have some ready-made event coordinator replacements!” 

While in Marketing we explored how social media is critical in getting our messages to the general public. The children got to upload to the AdoptmeApp in real time and learned what images and wording with limited characters had the best result for our adoption animal profiles. 

A new program needs a great name, logo and tagline so this was the task set by the Marketing design team. Designing an amazing logo that is immediately recognised as representing the program is something critically important. We need brand awareness, fortunately RSPCA has this so we had a great example to model the thoughts on, and this showed in some terrific designs created by the kids. 

RSPCA School for Dogs animal trainer Carly explained ‘reward based’ training and participants trained Chuck the Great Dane (aka Wonder Dog) in some basic commands. He may have put on a bit of weight as he was a very good boy.

Animal foster families are vital to the wellbeing of those animals that need that little extra help. We got to see what it takes to be a foster parent and how THE RSPCA makes this process as easy as possible. I have a suspicion that we have now added 10 families to the Foster parent role!

This was an amazing experience for all those involved, including the supporting staff and volunteers. We look forward to running future programs so look out for details right here on the RSPCA Queensland website or email education@rspcaqld.org.au to register interest and we will put you on the list!


Daryl Joy
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