"I have learned how many people, animals, and organizations there are who thrive from the help of others."
Heather Semies, 29, of Sykesville Maryland, volunteers for Horse Net Inc., which works with local schools to expose local youth to the need for volunteers within their community.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Heather: I have been volunteering for a local horse rescue, Horse Net Inc. Along with the rescue's founder, I am creating an educational/service learning/volunteer program that works with local schools to expose local youth to the need for volunteers within their community. This program will be educational in that participants will learn about horse husbandry and skills needed to work safely around horses. We also contribute to service learning hours that our middle and high school students need toward graduation. All of this will hopefully create another opportunity for our local students to become involved and to volunteer their time at the farm. We are still in the developmental stages but the goal is to create a program that generates funding needed to care for the horses on the farm and to create a relationship between local schools and the farm to generate funding to expand and improve the program so that we can extend the invitation to other schools and disabled youth in our community.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Heather: Horse Net Inc. in Eldersburg, MD.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefits from this work.
Heather: The injured, sick, and behaviorally challenged horses that the farm rescues and cares for benefit from the hands-on attention from the students as well as the clean environment provided by the students' hard work. The students benefit from the exposure to horses that have also had a tough time in life and from the physical and emotional connections that they make with horses that they work with.
What inspired you to get involved?
Heather: I was a physical education teacher where I worked with at risk youth. Volunteering at the farm made me aware of their need for help and for funding. I have experience as a teacher, a horse person, and as a person who creates needed sports programs for at risk youth. All of this said, it just makes sense and can help horses and local youth, my two passions in life.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Heather: We have had a few local youth on probation work on the farm to satisfy community service hours for the court who have shown dedication, interest, and a complete change in attitude after spending only a day or two working with the horses. Going from sitting on a rock and smoking a cigarette to busting tail and completing farm chores to help the horses is an amazing sight. I promised one young man that if he got the routine to where we didn't have to tell him what to do all of the time, I would give him a riding lesson on his favorite horse. He earned his lesson and has since asked his parents if he can continue to come out to the farm even after he completes his hours.
What is/was the hardest part?
Heather: Formatting my program to satisfy the local school system. Everything else should fall into place quite easily.
What was the biggest surprise?
Heather: How quickly the students respond to the challenge of the hard work.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Heather: I have learned how many people, animals, and organizations there are who thrive from the help of others.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Heather: Do it... the only thing you have to lose is a bit of your time and it is totally worth it. You aren't losing it when it is helping someone or some animal in need.
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