Students spend Fall Break at local animal Shelter

Alyssa Stencavage, Asst. Life Editor

Some students spent their fall break cleaning stalls and pens, washing bowls and tubs for larger animals, sweeping the barn, cleaning the refrigerator, helping to compost expiring foods and breaking down boxes to take to the recycling center at the Indraloka Animal Shelter in Mehoopany.
Founded by a woman named Indra Lahiri, Indraloka is a nonprofit, volunteer-based sanctuary that gives animals a second chance at living who otherwise would have been slaughtered or euthanized. This is a place Lahiri calls her home.
She told the volunteers from Wilkes that some of the animals were from other rescue centers that had shut down.
From Thursday, Oct. 11 to Saturday, Oct. 13, the students who volunteered through Alternative Fall Break helped with morning feedings and some daily chores on the farm as well as many tasks that needed to be done. All of this helps ensure that these animals have a clean place to come into at night.
Much of the trip was simply about being present and socializing with the animals so that they know that they are loved.
“Being able to volunteer there was a great opportunity for me,” Dawn DiMaria, junior sociology major, said. “I personally love working with animals. All of the animals were extremely friendly and we were able to feed them treats each day such as apples, carrots and nectarines. It was awesome being able to spend so much time with them.”
Lahiri said that she started the sanctuary because she believes each life is sacred and a miracle and ought to be treated as such.
After the work of each day, these volunteers were able to enjoy a lunch made of local, vegan ingredients.
“It was a wonderful trip and a great experience,” Wilkes University Interfaith coordinator Caitlin Czeh said. “Students were working hard and eager to work and help the animals. It was a very serene and calm atmosphere at the sanctuary.”
Czeh also said one of the students had never seen or touched a horse before, so the student’s  goal while on the trip was to change that.
“It was not only exciting for her, but also for me, being able to see her fulfill that dream,” Czeh said.
Among the students that took part in the AFB charity work, there was some very positive feedback.
“The trip was fantastic. Our AFB group really clicked and we became like a little family rather quickly,” DiMaria said. “We all got along really well and worked as a good team. We didn’t want to leave the sanctuary on our final day because we knew we wouldn’t be back.”
DiMaria said the group discussed possibly making a monthly trip to volunteer.
Another student commented on the beauty of the experience and what an amazing place the sanctuary is.
“Having the opportunity to be part of the Alternative Fall break at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary was a motivational, self-learning, team-building and inspirational experience I will always remember from my first year here at Wilkes,” junior English major Susan Zobitne said.
“Through this experience I had the chance to work with an amazing group of people and animals, gain first-hand knowledge of what an animal sanctuary does and how much it means, have my eyes opened to heart-felt stories that led many of the animals to be at Indraloka and enjoy the cool, fresh air, the open land and beautiful scenery.”
Zobitne agreed with DiMaria that none of the students wanted to leave the sanctuary because it was an amazing place to volunteer their time.