Teenager Maddy Kelly has been spreading her wings at the Dunedin Wildlife Hospital.
The year-13 Otago Girls High School student is doing volunteer work as part of her school’s Gateway programme.
Gateway is a Secondary Tertiary programme managed by individual secondary schools, who find work placements for students and develop individualised learning plans to support their pathway into a job.
“I've always had a passion for animals,” Maddy explains. “I grew up in a very animal-orientated family and that sparked my concern for their wellbeing and my love for all animals in general.”
Maddy, who started volunteering at the Wildlife Hospital early in April, says the experience has opened her eyes to new possibilities.
“The Wildlife Hospital has shown me a whole different area of animal care that I hadn't really thought about or explored before and that has made me more driven to be successful.
“I feel extremely honoured to be a part of such an amazing group of people doing such an amazing yet hard job of helping sick and injured animals and working to protect our wildlife so they have a future.”
Maddy says her duties range from mopping and sweeping floors, to cleaning out cages, to feeding the birds and helping handle them.
“These things are super-amazing to be able to experience.
“Just like our duties, the volunteers’ hours vary depending on the circumstances — say, an emergency patient has come in for treatment. However, I usually volunteer between 8-10 hours on a Tuesday every week so I get Tuesdays off school and do my work placement at the Wildlife Hospital instead.”
Maddy says one of the toughest challenges is not physical but, rather, mental.
“Euthanising an animal is obviously something that can't be helped, but it's still sad.”
Yet the environment is inspirational.
“Since starting at the Wildlife Hospital I've learnt a wide range of different things — from the way certain machines operate during a surgery, to why birds have adapted to be able to do certain things.
“The experience has made me more appreciative of our environment and the amazing wildlife that we are lucky enough to have here in New Zealand.”