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Alternative Breaks: An Oasis in the Desert

Sara Thomas petting a dog

Sara Thomas woke up on a spring Utah morning, ready and anxious to make herself useful at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in the town of Kanab.

She volunteered as part of the Alternative Breaks program at Boise State in which she signed up to help out some animals, make a charitable difference, and was able to add the experience to her resume in the end.

When she arrived at the sanctuary each day, she was greeted by a red backdrop of desertous rock, dotted with greenery. The grounds are nestled at the bottom of a rock ridge and include an impressive expanse of space for animals to roam, including: horse fields, separate indoor/outdoor “towns” for dogs and cats, a bunny house, a piggy paradise, and more.

Pig at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Each day looked a bit different from the last, but whether it involved scooping hay, cleaning cat rooms, or playing with pigs, Sara knew she was making a difference for the animals and staff of the sanctuary.

However, a few things were pleasantly consistent. Sara very much enjoyed the fact that volunteers were able to bring home a dog with them for a sleepover.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for the dogs to get some socialization time in and it was a great way for us to love these incredible dogs who were so deserving of a forever home.”

Sara got the chance to not only give the animals a beautiful and comfortable space to live in, but she also got to get in some play as well. She was fascinated by the fact that pigs actually act a lot like dogs! She watched as they rambunctiously ran around, eager to catch the attention of someone who wanted to play or give them some belly rubs. This was a totally new discovery about animals that changed the way she viewed them all. Another example—did you know that cats love to be walked on a leash? Who knew.

Cat walking on a leash

Her days were jam-packed full of animal experience and care. It was admittedly a lot of work, but Sara felt it was a spring break well spent.

“I was so tired when I got back to Boise, but all the learning moments, amazing memories, and knowing that I made some sort of difference were all worth it.”

She felt this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to help out such a wide range of animals in a single place.

Sara was also majorly impacted by the passion she saw in each employee at the sanctuary. In particular, a woman named Deb really opened her eyes to the efforts employees were happily willing to go through in order to give these animals a stable and healthy life.

“She absolutely exuded love for these animals, which made a huge difference in my experience as a whole. They work tirelessly to advocate for, rehabilitate, and provide a home for homeless pets and wildlife.”

Although she had entered the program already an animal lover, she left with a much larger appreciation for them. Her time made her rethink her eating habits and solidified an understanding of why it is so important to adopt animals as opposed to shopping for them.

Yes, she left the program with a deeper love for animals, but the experience also made her feel more connected to her peers, to the university, and she even made some friends.

“It may seem scary to go on a week-long trip with people you don’t know, but these people will become your friends! You will have a lot of bonding time with one another and will create so many amazing memories with these people.”

Group photo

Additionally, Sara wants to work in higher education helping students enrich their college experience through similar experiences to the one she had volunteering for Best Friends. She is currently applying to grad programs. As such, she feels that this adventure and experience on her resume will help her in achieving those future goals.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, Sara wants you to go all in! “Be all in so that you can get the most that you can out of your experience.” Every volunteer experience will be different, but Sara’s included one half day, which also allowed her to go all in on the local scenery. She used her time to explore Zion National Park, a trip she will never forget. She says she cannot wait to get back there and spend more time exploring the surrounding area.

View of canyon

This year, the Alternative Breaks program will have local opportunities that take place April 12-16. There are so many worthy programs for students to participate in, gain some experience with, and ultimately add as a shining accomplishment to their resume. Visit the Alternative Breaks website for more information and to show your interest in the program. Students can specify their interests and passions. Opportunities will be chosen based on those subjects. Fill out the Alt Breaks Interest Form, or apply before the January 10 deadline!



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