I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience such a beautiful term. It has been incredibly eye-opening and inspirational to be around so many wonderful people who are so dedicated to their work. I was given the special offer of being able to take two co-ops at once, and I simply could not refuse the offer; I have had the pleasure of working at both Heartbeat Learning Gardens and the Glen Helen Raptor Center.
Heartbeat Learning Gardens is a non-profit organization that revolves around farm work. For eleven weeks, I lived in a small room in a farmhouse there, sharing the kitchen with two other people who lived in separate trailers, while I worked with the land. Pulling weeds, planting, and preparing beds were my main responsibilities, and I loved every minute of it. In fact, after the first few weeks, I began to love it so much that I developed a deep attachment to the land and the success of the plants. I found myself actually worried when the weather was suboptimal for growing conditions, and I crossed my fingers when temperatures abruptly dipped so low that they could’ve potentially killed off the crops we planted.
My passion for the work is only amplified by the fact that it’s all done for the sake of improving people’s living circumstances—none of the food we grow is for profit! Nearly all of the crops are donated to families in need. The social justice aspect of the work really gave me a sense of pride on harvest day, knowing that what I was doing was going to help improve the lives of hundreds of people.
The Glen Helen Raptor Center was a very different experience, as the work I was doing revolved around birds. The Raptor Center is a rescue center that takes in injured raptors and nurses them back to health before releasing them into the wild. We take in around 200 birds a year and successfully release a majority of them. My job mostly consisted of caring for the birds by feeding them, cleaning up after them, and even handling some of them. I have developed a bond with each and every bird I’ve worked with and I see them as the most beautiful creatures.
These places have given me so much, not only in terms of appreciation for the respective work I engaged in while being a part of each organization but also life skills and an ability to build and be a part of a community of people who can rely on each other and work together. As my co-op starts to wind down, I have been thinking back to all the great times I’ve had and all the life-long friendships I’ve made, and even all of the lessons I’ve learned during my time at both places. It fills me with so much joy to think about how I’ve grown and all the challenges I overcame in order to become a more mature person overall this term.