In a heartwarming display of community spirit and compassion, a group of teenagers from Camp Fire Central Oregon’s Teen Connect program recently embarked on a fulfilling volunteering experience at Harmony Farm Sanctuary. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating neglected, unwanted and abused farmed animals, Harmony Farm Sanctuary builds a kinder and more inclusive community and advocates for a sustainable food system free from harm. It welcomes volunteers, making it an ideal place for teens to lend a hand and experience what it means to have an impact.

On a sunny, recent February morning, armed with enthusiasm and the desire to make a difference, the teen volunteers first learned a bit about the farm and then received guidance on how to help before diving into their tasks. From cleaning yards and pens to moving hay and scrubbing water tubs, their efforts helped support the sanctuary’s commitment to a safe, clean environment for its animals.

Without a doubt, the service itself felt important to the teens, and yet the interactions with the animals left a lasting impact on these young volunteers. Among the diverse array of residents at Harmony Farm Sanctuary were turkeys, pot-bellied pigs, horses, goats, rabbits, and more.

Under the guidance of the farm staff, the teens eagerly engaged with these furry and feathered friends, embracing moments of connection and newfound understanding. For instance, reaching into one turkey’s feathers to give it a back scratch brought forth looks of surprise and joy, feeling how light and soft those large feathers were and how receptive to the human touch the turkey was. While some rabbits preferred not to be held, one craved it—the exchange of warm fuzzies between the teens and the bunny was bountiful, to say the least.

And so the experience was not merely about completing chores; it was about fostering empathy and forging meaningful connections. The staff at Harmony Farm Sanctuary went above and beyond to facilitate these interactions, encouraging the teens to not only pet turkeys and hold rabbits but also place their hands on the happy horses and give pats to pigs. Curious goats swarmed about, nuzzling and playfully prodding the teens.

For the youth involved, the day spent at Harmony Farm Sanctuary was about much more than giving back—it was about gaining perspective, nurturing compassion, and discovering the profound bond that exists between humans and animals. No question about it, as they left the animals mid-day, hearts brimming with gratitude and minds filled with newfound insights, the teen volunteers carried with them a wealth of learning and new seeds of kindness sown from their experience at Harmony Farm Sanctuary.