Volunteer Abroad FAQ California Animal Protection

Volunteers Go Vegan – Protecting Farmed Animals in Northern California

Prior to departure to California

Do I need specific requirements or abilities to apply for this project?

In order to apply for this project you need to be 18 or older and be able to effectively communicate in English both verbally and in written form. Since this project requires you to be physically active we need a doctor’s certificate confirming your state of health and physical fitness: summers are hot in Northern California and temperatures can reach >37°C; winters are generally wet and cold (0-7°C). You also need to be able to lift up to 40 pounds. You should be comfortable living in group housing, function well in team but able to work independently when needed. Furthermore a good work ethic is very important: You are expected to arrive to your shift on time and communicate effectively and routinely with your supervisor. You must also understand, remember and follow instructions and procedures. Depending on your nationality and the duration of your stay you need to apply for ESTA or a visa. You might check out the foreign department’s website for the visa standards or ask the NATUCATE team directly. Very important: You should be dedicated to live a vegan life style while volunteering and living at the project site (please see last FAQ-box).

There is an application form and interview process. It is a completely non-discriminatory enquiry.

What services are included?

Prior to your departure we will help you organize and plan your whole stay. We will help you find a good flight and arrange your ESTA/visa application. Furthermore your accommodation will be provided. You'll also receive food items for two meals per day that you need to fix yourself. Once a week the sanctuary staff will prepare a vegan dinner for the volunteers. Flights, visa fees and transport are not included.

Do I need certain medical precautions or requirements?

You definitely need a travel insurance to start your volunteering work with NATUCATE. We can help you find a suitable travel insurance. A tetanus vaccination is required to participate in the programme. In general you need to talk to your doctor and make sure you are vaccinated against Measles, Mumps and Rubella. Other suggested vaccinations include hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, pertussis, influenza, polio and pneumococcus. For current information and warnings regarding your destination you should check out the homepage of the foreign department. You must not have strong allergies to animals, plants or chemicals used for cleaning that can’t be managed by medication. You should have a high level of manual dexterity as well as average vision. You should also be able to bend and squat and be able wo walk unaided on unpaved/uneven ground.

How long can I volunteer for?

We offer 6 to 8 week commitments all year round, when space is available.

What kind of equipment should I take with me?

Long pants are mandatory during your work shift, no matter the weather conditions. Spring and summer tend to be warm so bring shorts, short-sleeved shirts, skirts or other lightweight, comfortable clothing. Autumn and winter tend to be wet and cold so bring layers and any waterproof rain gear you need. You will also need to invest in a pair of mucking boots as they are mandatory for working in animal care. You will be spending a lot of time outside; therefore you should consider packing tough clothing which can get dirty. Furthermore we advise you to pack closed-toed athletic shoes, a sunhat, sunscreen, sunglasses, headlamp, lunch box, water bottle and mosquito repellent. Don’t forget your passport, your driver’s license (if you have one), an alarm clock, smartphone/laptop and items for your recreational time.


How do I arrive at my destination, do I have to organize it myself?

Volunteers arrive and depart on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month. You need to book a flight to the “Sacramento International Airport” (SMF) located 60 miles to the southwest of the animal shelter. Please book your flight so that you can arrive on the programme starting date. After your arrival you can either get a shuttle service ($78-$100) or go to the animal shelter by rental car.

The project

What is my main function?

Your responsibilities vary, depending on the needs of the animals, the sanctuary and your skillset. In general, you assist with daily feeds, clean and bed animal sleeping quarters, aid with open or close of barns and help maintain sanctuary grounds. Moreover you can observe weekly animal health checks as needed, sort donated produce fed to the animals, assist with laundry, help socialize animals and other miscellaneous tasks. By the end of the programme you will have learned the daily animal care operations, hands on care of farmed animals, proper medical treatments for individual sanctuary residents, and how to properly restrain and handle different species.

How big is the group?

The group consists of about 6 volunteers.

Life on site

What is the accommodation like?

Volunteers will live on the animal shelter site in a shared-accommodation guest house. The house has a fully equipped kitchen (stove, refrigerator, microwave, blender, cookware, dishes and utensils), a living area with a TV and DVD player, three bedrooms and two bathrooms with showers, tubs, sinks and a western toilet. Each bedroom has a night-stand, a closet and either one or two bunkbeds. The house has central heat and air. Bedding and bath towels will be provided. As you and the other volunteers share the guest house with other guests who are not part of the project, you are required to observe a respectful etiquette at all times.

How is the food provided?

Volunteers will be offered one weekly vegan communal dinner. They are welcome to participate in the preparation of the meal. It will be prepared by the Guest House Innkeeper. In the fully equipped kitchen of the guest house volunteers can prepare meals themselves. The staff members purchase basic staple food items to cover two meals per day for each volunteer. Volunteers will need to provide any additional food they need/want. Once a week a staff member will take the volunteers to the city for some grocery shopping.

How are working time and free time divided?

You are expected to work four consecutive days in 9-hour-shifts with a 1-hour-lunch break included. Three days are off. Volunteers are assigned an AM or PM shift; start and end times vary on time of year and will be explained to you by a staff member upon arrival. Please be prepared wo work as early as 6:30am or stay as late as 8:00pm in the summer months.

How can I spend my free time?

Volunteers have three days off. Unless there is an emergency need at the sanctuary, days off are consecutive. The shelter is within driving distance to several local, state, and federal parks including the Tahoe National Forest. It’s also within driving distance to Grass Valley or Nevada City which contain theatres, movies, restaurants, concerts, wineries, bars and recreational areas. In the other direction is our California’s capital, Sacramento which is full of restaurants, bars, museums, and recreational areas. The United States does have strict drinking age rules – only those 21 and older may drink. Please note that Yosemite National Park is between 4 and 4.5 hours away. The Bay Area (e.g. San Francisco) is between 2.5 and 3 hours away.

Do I have a contact person on site?

Yes, you will find a contact person at the sanctuary. Additionally you will be looked after by a supervisor.

What expenses do I have to expect during the project? Can I withdraw cash on site and do I have to pay in local currency?

Volunteers usually spend $50-$75 per week on groceries. If you plan on participating in activities outside of the project you will need to budget accordingly.

The US-dollar is the official currency of the United States and its insular territories. A few weeks prior to departure to the US you can get a certain amount of dollars from your local bank. There are also foreign exchange places at the airport. Furthermore you can withdraw cash at the airport or in the city.

How can I contact family and friends at home?

The guest house has access to the internet. If available to a volunteer’s smartphone, one can enable making phone calls via WiFi. Cell phone service is limited but available. There is a land-line but not for making long-distance phone calls. You should use Skype or a calling card for international calls.

What’s the climate like?

The climate in California is mild and pleasant. It is always colder the closer you get to the coast or the higher you go up the mountains. During the night desert region can also get very cold. Besides that the rest of the country has nice and warm summer with temperature over 20° C and cooler winter months below 10°C. The perception varies strongly from region to region. In Northern California summers are hot and temperatures can reach >37°C. The winters are generally wet and cold, ranging from 0-7°C.

What happens in the event of an emergency?

In the event of an emergency, you will either be transported via sanctuary staff to a nearby hospital or urgent care centre. Please make sure your insurance covers possible transport via ambulance which patients are required to pay for. Consider something like Emergency Evacuation Coverage.

Are there any rules and restrictions?

Volunteers must adhere to a vegan lifestyle while on the project site. No smoking is permitted on the site, aside from inside your personal vehicle. Alcohol is permitted but must be consumed after hours. Working under the influence is prohibited and will result in termination of the volunteer programme with no refund. Here’s a list of what not to bring or do:

• Illicit or recreational drugs (including medical marijuana)

• Animal flesh, dairy products, eggs, honey, gelatin

• Leather, wool, or any animal-derived clothing or shoe

• Cosmetics/personal hygiene care tested on animals or containing animal-derived ingredients

• Bedding made using down feathers

• Weapons (guns, knives)

• Cigarette smoking is not allowed on the project site due to high fire danger (aside from inside your own personal vehicle)

What is veganism? How is the vegan lifestyle at the sanctuary characterized?

Vegans avoid animal-based foods (animal flesh, dairy, eggs, honey); clothing/shoes/wallets/bags containing the skins, fur, feathers, or fiber of other animals and products that contain animal-based ingredients or were tested on animals (to the best of one’s ability). Veganism is the ethical belief that human beings should cause the least amount of harm possible toward both nonhuman and human animals.

A person may choose to be vegan for ethical, health or environmental reasons. At the sanctuary all team members are vegan for ethical reasons as they seek to protect the lives of nonhuman animals harmed by animal agriculture. Therefore, certain goods are not permitted at the sanctuary: animal flesh (including fish and insects), dairy from animal lactations, eggs, honey, gelatin, animal fibers or skin (leather, suede, wool, fur, feather, down, silk) as well as cosmetics/personal hygiene care tested on animals or containing animal-derived ingredients.

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