Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Butz
I am a small town girl who loves the ocean, the mountains, backyard nature and animals.
I grew up on Texada Island and then moved to Rossland. My last year of high school my family moved to Victoria, not fun , thank goodness for sports!
I ended up with a athletic scholarship to play volleyball in Fresno California. I competed in track and field at that time as well and held a very long standing school record in heptathlon. It was recently broken after… 31 years.
Returning from the states I was back living in Victoria for a bit and an opportunity for me to live and work in Bella Coola came up. At the time I had family living there. It was a year contract and I figured I would get to be with family and live in an amazingly beautiful part of BC. I was going for one year, I stayed 7.
I then moved to Nelson where I attended the Kutenai Art Therapy Institute for 2 years. Just as I was finishing up the program my future boss called the director of the school asking if she knew of anyone who had worked with First Nations people. She mentioned my name and shortly after I was driving in my car pulling a trailer to the north west coast of BC.
I was offered a job that was a 9 month crisis management contract. The community was struggling and suffering from multiple suicides. This was a small community of approx 800 people. I ended up becoming a full time family counsellor who worked during the week and carried a 24/7 pager for mental health needs and emergencies. The 9 months turned into living and working in the community for 6 years.
Then it was off to Prince Rupert where I worked with deaf and hard of hearing students as a support worker before filling in for my friend’s mat leave in another small First Nations coastal community. After the mat leave was done and my friend returned to her position there was a mental health counselling position that had opened up. I went for a school year ( mat leave) and stayed for 4 and half years working as a mental health counsellor.
Fast forward and I am here in the lower mainland …. I work in the anti-violence sector with child and youth exposed to violence. Volunteering at Kindred Farm fits.
It really has become an amazing balance for me with the work I do.
I have a passion for writing and I’m sure if I had more time I would explore that. I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book or two.
I want to be able to go into a book store and be able to find a match between the lives of the kids I know and a book that speaks to their story. So when that little colouring book about Louise was done, I went yah! I love the idea of even helping children write their own stories.
For now my writing has been when big things happen and I need to put my thoughts and feelings out there from my experience of what has happened and the impact that it, and the people, now animals, have had on me. I write with the thought in mind that others don’t often have the words or they do but not an opportunity or the courage to speak or write them. So I write.
This first started when I had an experience in one of the communities I worked in. A gentleman’s son had died by suicide and he himself had just attempted suicide. I was called to where the man was. His pain and grief was too much at times for him to bare. I sat with him and asked if he wanted to tell me his story. I listened to his story and his tears. I went home in the early hours of that morning and sat at my computer and I wrote. I wrote for my self, I wrote for him, I wrote for his family, I wrote for the community. I shared what I had written with him and asked if I could share it with the community at an upcoming gathering. I wanted his voice to be heard. I wanted others to know they are not alone.This was about connection and healing.
I’ve always wanted to volunteer but didn’t know with whom or what. Aug 10th 2017 was the volunteer introduction session and the following weekend I trained with Chris and started right in doing the early morning shift, what I call RISE & SHINE ..…
Volunteering at Kindred, connecting with the animals…and considering the work that I do (working with children who witness violence) I feel a sense of balance for myself and I feel that fine balance to an empathetic and compassionate connecting relationship even more so. It’s beautiful and it’s difficult. I have the opportunity daily to feel and be in that moment. I see more clearly the impact that my words and my actions have on others. I am witness to the impact of the animal-human relationship and the animal-child relationship and the impact it has on a child’s words and experiences.
In the morning, I have my routine and there is a calmness, however, there is also unexpected disruption in that calmness. What I know is that when I lose my animal-human relationship, I need a place to put my experience with that animal out there. Each bond has it’s own little story. People are either going to read it and relate to it or at least read it and have their own thoughts about their bond to the animal. It’s this place of giving myself permission and offering others to give them selves permission to share, to grieve, with each other.
When the children come to Kindred they have expectations and ideas of what they want to do with the animals. As a volunteer we have expectations of what we want them to experience and learn.
Many children who come from controlling, cruel and abusive homes and environments are not shown, taught or given choice.
So when a child is introduced to an animal and taught about animal care, sometimes the task/job shown is not what they want to do. Who wants to muck when you can be close to a cow and hug them the whole time.
I wish for the child to have the full experience of the farm, their interaction with each animal to be amazing and safe, and an experience that offers them choice on how to be involved.
I want them to have the full experience and yet some are only capable or need one piece to have the full experience.
So what do you do with a child who wants nothing to do with mucking cow patties?
You make sure all the tools and equipment needed are ready, you create the same experience but on a smaller scale a way smaller scale. You maybe say, “Have you seen the size of Gracie’s patties?” and you take a deep breath in and be ready to hear the child.
So when the child says “I really don’t want to do this”, or they say “Okay I tried it” you can acknowledge and talk about the other tasks required to help do the animal care. Give them a choice; talk about how each person’s involvement helps and how great it is be a part of a team helping animals. Help them to feel proud for trying something new, for letting an adult know what they needed and tell them that you are thankful they helped.
Barney has been misunderstood often. He doesn’t know how to “ask nicely”, I’ve come to know he just asked in a different way and it was just as much about me and how I was asking as it was about him.
He shows his horns often, he engages with intensity and power at times which has again often been seen as aggressive behaviour with the message ‘don’t get too close”. I read him wrong. I misunderstood him. I know that possibly my interaction with him was influenced by my lack of knowledge of him, of goats, possibly my interaction and relationship with Clyde as well as the relationship they had with each other.
Clyde was easy going, less aggressive, given attention first. I came into the relationship with the two of them with a bias. We all need to acknowledge our biases. When we do we can see a person, an animal, a situation more clearly and focus on the interaction and need.
It has taken almost two years for my relationship with Barney to get to where he is comfortable and invites to have me close to him to scratch his horns, to gently pet his face and occasionally give him kisses. And then there are mornings when Barney shows me he does not want me any where close. I am reminded that I need to be grounded, present, in the moment to receive the message, keep myself safe, and him safe. Each of us needs to be invited; to accept if an invitation is given or not given and be ok with that. We must remember that there are 2 in a relationship and that my needs and wants do not take precedent or in any way have more value or importance over another’s needs or wants.
Many of the kids in the children’s program come with similar stories. They are aggressive, they lack impulse control, they behave badly, they are shut-down, they struggle to make friends and often isolate themselves, they do not know how to ask for what they need and are challenged daily. If it took two years for Barney and I, with consistent daily interaction, to build and create a relationship just think about what it takes for a child to feel safe to begin to build a relationship or some connection to others in their world.
One of the things I would like to do at Kindred is wear a GO-PRO that would capture my little routine in the morning. Some children struggle with worry and anxiety and its difficult for them to anticipate or prepare for an experience such as this one. It would be in real time, up close and personal, capturing the moments when things go right and sometimes they don’t, bloopers and all. There is this whole kinesthetic learning, it’s how children learn that I want educators and service providers to see and hopefully experiences it themselves. You feel it, see it, smell it and touch it. It isn’t a field trip, it’s an experience, it’s learning, it’s life.
There was a young child who struggled with wanting to come. I took some pictures of what they had missed as a reminder that they have had great experiences at the farm and hoped that it might trigger a memory that says to the child “maybe I am anxious, maybe my day is not going well, but I have something that I know that’s okay”. The more we provide learning opportunities outside of the classroom for those struggling inside the classroom by using positive reinforcement and interactions with animals to teach and encourage social emotional learning, safety and security, the better our world will be and a better place it will be for our children.
As the farm gets bigger the ideas for programming and the animals get bigger, There are always ways to learn how to flow and grow with the hick ups and losses. It is life.
So between my dogs, well dog, with Nacho gone, work and Kindred and home life one would think I didn’t have a lot of time for much more… but I do, I run…. I’m taking a pottery class which is not going as I had anticipated. I was thinking everyone gets a mug for Christmas, but nope everyone may get an ashtray/ jewelry dish!