The truth about running a nonprofit animal sanctuary is that most of your time is spent interacting with humans.
I get that this might not sound all that appealing to everyone who is interested in embarking on a career in the sanctuary or animal protection field. Let’s face it, a lot of “animal people” feel strong connections to non-human animals, while feeling some disdain, awkwardness, or unease around their own human species.
Something I learned early on that seems to get reinforced more strongly each day, however, is that people who are drawn to help sanctuaries are some of the very best examples of the human species.
In eleven years, you can imagine that we’ve met a whole lot of (human) people in the form of volunteers, donors, staff members, students, and other supporters. We get to know people and we become aware of both the joys and the hardships that people face in their lives. I often find myself thinking and worrying about humans that are connected to the sanctuary far more than the chimpanzees.
Through our Sponsor-a-Day and Personalized Stones donation programs, we’ve also been introduced to the important human and non-human people in the lives of supporters, often after these influential people have already passed away.
It’s an incredible honor to be able to honor people.
When someone very close to the sanctuary passes away, though, I feel at a loss as to how to appropriately honor them.
Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest, and the world, recently lost an incredible man. Introduced to the sanctuary by his wife and CSNW volunteer, Jen, James Douglas was a long-serving board member who led CSNW through many transitions. He was full of optimism and positivity, even when faced with difficult situations. He was kind and generous. He was a natural leader. He was a friend and a mentor.
Although the sanctuary was a small part of his life, and he leaves behind many, many people who were changed by his life and affected by his loss, he played an outsized role in the relatively short life of the sanctuary. He meant a lot to us personally as well as to the development of the organization.
I plan to honor the legacy that he left behind at CSNW by working even harder to carry out the plans for the future that James helped to craft and to attempt to approach life and work with even just a small amount of the curiosity, joyfulness, and hope that he exemplified. The same qualities that I see in the chimpanzees.
Cheers to you, James.