My name is Aidan, I am an AmeriCorps member at Nature Nurtures Farm in Olympia, Washington. The usual duties for my position (before the pandemic) included animal care, volunteer coordination, mentoring at-risk youth, and helping pre-school classes who visit the farm. Most of these responsibilities required in-person contact with our community, so after the pandemic, a lot of those responsibilities changed.
When the pandemic hit and the stay-at-home order was released, I was extremely nervous about the volunteers and mentees at Nature Nurtures Farm. Our program relies on volunteer help to take care of the 30+ animals on the farm, and the kids rely on the farm to get their peace from home and school. Without the volunteers, would our farm be okay? Or without the farm, would the kids feel neglected? I was afraid for our farm. I was afraid for my relationships with the volunteers and mentees, but to my surprise the strength of the NNF and the community pulled through.
In a time of high stress and uncertainty, the volunteers still managed to devote their time to the farm animals. The volunteers understood their services were essential, and some even offered come help at the farm more. They felt a sense of duty to continue serving the NNF community. Their weekly visits became tremendously important themselves and for the staff. For themselves, it was a time to get out of the house and get some peace of mind in nature. For the staff, it was a time to escape isolation on the farm and be reminded that community still existed even without in-person programs.
This sense of community pushed Nature Nurtures to overcome the barriers of the pandemic and continue the farm’s relationship with the families at home. My co-AmeriCorps member, Kaela, and I began calling the kids who would usually be visiting the farm. I originally thought the kids would be hesitant to talk on the phone because like who talks on the phone nowadays??, and some were hesitant at first. In the end though, the kids were so excited to see their animal friends at the farm that the conversations lasted way longer then I expected.
The calls were so positive that we started making weekly videos featuring the animals for the pre-schoolers and mentees. Pretty soon parents were telling us that their kids loved seeing their teachers and our mentees were telling us who they’d like to see in the next video! These calls and videos brought the farm home to our mentees and students. They made the kids feel important. Nature Nurtures would not give up on them even if they couldn’t come to the farm. We also felt important because it seemed like we could make people’s days brighter even in a stressful time.
I know this sense of community helped me. I learned that even if stuff in the outside world is really bad, we can make it through anything if we have a strong community.