The following is a summary of a conversation that took place as part of our evaluation of The Humane League. Quilla Park spoke with Allison Smith, ACE’s Research Manager, on September 3, 2015.
Initial involvement with The Humane League
At university, Quilla Park studied in Biology and English. She started working with The Humane League (THL) in the summer of 2012 as an intern. On graduating, she moved to Seattle and has volunteered with THL there since their office opened around 2013. She currently works for a technology staffing company as a consultant care manager.
Were you involved in animal advocacy before the internship?
Quilla was involved with a group of students which campaigned on campus. She was also a part of the university’s vegan and vegetarian groups, but these were not involved in much advocacy or outreach.
How did you get involved with the internship?
When she was at university, one of the colleges was an agriculture school. She was interested in animals and always wanted to help them. On taking the animal agriculture course, she found out about the conditions farmed animals were living in. She did further research on the farming practices and wanted to do something to change that. Consequently, she looked for an animal organization internship, which could teach her how to be an effective advocate for animals. Quilla looked at various groups including PETA and Mercy For Animals, and eventually came across the THL internship. She ended up getting paired with David Coman-Hidy, who was the campaign director in Boston at the time.
What did you work on during the internship?
Quilla did some leafleting, which she had never done before, but enjoyed. She did tabling at events, including Pride Parade and Festival, a Veg Fest and a farm sanctuary in rural Massachusetts. She learned how to have effective interactions with the public in a variety of situations, including those in which the audience might not be that receptive. She worked on how to recruit new volunteers and how to use social media. At the time, THL was much smaller and had only one Facebook page, which Quilla maintained. She also answered people’s inquiries through the website.
She learned a lot about organization and event planning from organising outreach at events like Pride or the Veg Fest.
What do you think worked well for you about the internship?
To begin with, Quilla was very nervous. She had never done advocacy before and did not know what to expect from the people she would be working with. What stood out was that the people at THL were very welcoming and supportive, which instilled confidence, especially for things like leafleting, which can initially be intimidating. The team at THL set a good example and provided positive feedback and constructive criticism. There was also great value in learning by doing.
Is there anything you think could have been improved about the internship?
No. Other groups Quilla has worked with had weaker organizational support, which made them less appealing.
Was it an experience you would or have recommended to others?
Yes. She has recommended it to others. She has sent a message every year recommending it to members of the vegetarian club of which she was a member at university.
How do you think the experience changed you as an advocate for animals?
The experience pretty much singlehandedly made her an advocate for animals. It showed her there was something she can do to help animals and explicitly showed her how to do it. The internship also showed her the most effective ways to use her time and interact with people, whether the context was leafleting, humane education, or some other form of advocacy.
Is there anything else you want to say about the internship?
Like most animal advocacy internships, it was unpaid.
You have been volunteering since the Seattle office opened. How often and how much time do you spend volunteering with them?
On average, roughly around 8 hours every couple of weeks. But the amount of time devoted varies depending on the type of activity: humane education, leafleting and special events all require different amounts of preparation.
You’ve been working in Seattle as a volunteer. Who do you work with there?
The office director in Seattle is Heather Bolint, and prior to that it was Rachel Huff-Wagenborg.
Has the change of office director affected your experience as a volunteer?
Her experience has been consistently great. Throughout volunteering, she has met campaign directors from other field officers and has become close with all of them. Everyone has a positive attitude and embodies the experience she had in her internship. Quilla has found this with all THL staff and volunteers she has met.
What do you like about volunteering with THL?
Firstly, Quilla enjoyed building relationships with people who think in a similar way to her. Secondly, she enjoys the efficacy of the work. Leafleting or humane education presentations give you the opportunity to engage with people who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to ask questions about these issues. The audiences often show genuine interest. For example, while leafleting someone might come up to you and say that since they received one of these leaflets last year they have done meatless Mondays since then. She enjoys this feeling of making a tangible difference.
Thirdly, there is a mix of activities. She has been involved in a silent protest, a Costco petition, leafleting, tabling, humane education, galas, and event. Volunteers have the opportunity to contribute on whatever their strength is.
Do you feel like you have particular strengths but you’ve ended up contributing more in one way. Or are you an all-round person?
Quilla is a bit of an all-rounder. But a lot of her work history is in communications and customer service. This has been a strength when dealing with the public. She can ensure that conversations are amicable and that everyone understands the point at issue.
Is there anything you think could be improved about the way THL interacts with volunteers?
No. Quilla is not sure about process of recruiting new volunteers. There is a core of volunteers at different THL events.
Does it seem like among these other volunteers that you know, they have similar experiences of THL as you do?
Quite a few THL volunteers volunteer with other organizations as well, and there are a handful who work exclusively with THL, on animal advocacy at least. Due to her positive experience with THL, Quilla wants to focus time and energy on THL. She has yet to meet someone at a volunteer event who she did not see in future at another event.
How does THL show support and appreciation for you as a volunteer?
They are currently doing ‘Team Humane League’ to raise funds. Volunteers are choosing their athletic goals and getting sponsorship; Quilla is running her first half marathon. THL shares her photos on social media, she receives supportive personal texts, Facebook messages, and emails from THL people. For example, people might congratulate her on reaching a fundraising goal. At a gala last winter, THL recognised volunteers who have gone out of their way to do something special or dedicated huge amounts of time to THL.
If volunteering for THL weren’t an option, is there something else you would want to be doing instead?
Quilla would still want to be involved with animal advocacy. There are local animal organizations in Seattle which she tried to get involved with seven years ago, but didn’t have a great experience when trying to volunteer. Since she moved back to Seattle after university, she has got to know the people in the organization better and would volunteer for them. But she has a preference for THL.
Is there anything you can think of that would make you no longer want to work for THL?
They would have to completely change the way they tackle issues. Most important for Quilla are the people involved and their focus on effectiveness in reducing suffering, which she agrees with. THL have grown quite quickly and there was a risk of increased red tape and mismanagement. In fact, she has seen the opposite: THL have added more like-minded, hard-working, good people who want to help volunteers and interns grow into good advocates.
How do you think that volunteering with THL has affected your advocacy for animals?
Previously, Quilla had no idea where to start when it came to conversations about why she is vegan or how to move towards being a vegan. She is now better informed and prepared. She feels able to make a difference on an individual level.
Is there anything else you want to tell me about THL?
Quilla has been particularly grateful for the opportunities to do humane education classes in high schools. She has given presentations in English and Spanish and interacted with high school students who are eager to learn and ask questions. This is an experience she would not have had otherwise.