A couple of months ago, I realised I was in a position to dedicate a significant chunk of my working time to voluntary work. I was financially able to work without earning much money, I had time to give, and I had a willingness to use this opportunity to do something valuable. I decided to use this amazing opportunity that my life’s circumstances presented me with to provide support for charities.
Two broad goals that I decided to engage with through this work were ending the exploitation of non-human animals in factory farms and improving the lives of those living in developing countries. I found two charities that were working towards goals that are situated within these broad aims. The first is Animals Aotearoa (AA) which works on policies to increase the minimum welfare standards of factory-farmed chickens in New Zealand. The second is Family Empowerment Media (FEM) which provides family planning and sexual health information and provisions for people in Nigeria through several different media outlets.
Thus, my changemaker activity is volunteering for two charities for a total of three months: Animals Aotearoa (AA) and Family Empowerment Media (FEM).
Given my academic background, I was able to offer technical and research-based support. My work for AA includes writing articles, doing social media data analysis, and providing operational support. My work for FEM primarily involves the creation of a knowledge database to help them navigate their research and decide what research is required in the future.
I chose to support AA and FEM because I was confident that their approach was impact-focused and likely to have a powerful contribution to the achievement of my specified aims. Both charities have been recognised as ‘highly effective’ by EA Funds.
A key part of this project is that I am offering my services to these two charities for free. The reason behind this is that, given that I am able to offer this, the charities can then dedicate their financial resources to other areas. Both charities are relatively small and have limited budgets so my voluntary support means some of their financial strain is removed. I hope that these charities can increase their impact as they can focus more of their budget on other areas.
I don’t see many issues with my work for FEM but my work with AA, an animal welfare charity, is riddled with issues that I entertain very regularly and am still finding my way with. The main issue is that working toward increasing the welfare of animals in factory farms may not be beneficial for the aim of ending the exploitation of these animals. A common counterargument to welfare-based approaches to the treatment of animals is that it makes a minor change to the current farming systems seem to be enough and thus obstructs the greater aim of ending all the unnecessary suffering in factory farms.
I have considered this a great deal and discussed it with many different people whose views I hold in high esteem. I believe my work with AA is beneficial, not just for the animals that the charity supports, but for my education on the subject. I hope that, through working within the welfare-based approach, I can become better informed so that I can act in the most impactful way in the future. As a result, I do not believe this counterargument is sufficient for me to stop working for AA.
I am currently a month into this project and am finding it to be a rewarding experience for myself and, I hope, for the charities too. There are lots of people doing incredible work who could really do with a helping hand. If I can inspire others to embark on similar projects then that makes my changemaker activity even more successful in my eyes!