As Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary works to put injured and orphaned wildlife on the road to recovery it also strives to educate the community about its work and provide training for and students pursuing careers in the field.
HUBERT | As Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary works to put injured and orphaned wildlife on the road to recovery it also strives to educate the community about its work and provide training for and students pursuing careers in the field.
Throughout the year, local schools groups and scout troops visit Possumwood to get a close-up look at the wildlife and learn about the effort to nurse the animals back to health. Possumwood also teaches wildlife rehabilitation courses for Coastal Carolina Community College.
“We really try to reach out to the community to get them excited to come out and learn about what we do and the wildlife,” Possumwood Acres Vice President Alison Castillo said.
And as the spring approaches, Possumwood is preparing to welcome another group of students: college interns eager for the training required for their educational goals, whether they are headed to veterinary school or studying biology or other sciences.
The organization has already received more than a dozen applications from interested students from across the United States for Possumwood’s minimum six-week training program.
Possumwood Director Toni O’Neil said the interns provide valuable assistance while also receiving training, but they face a challenge when it comes to recruiting them to the program.
“We’re getting applications from all over the United States and one of the first things they ask is if we offer any housing assistance,” O’Neil said, noting that they also get inquiries from students in other countries.
Currently, interns either stay with friends or family in the area or have to find their own lodging while they are here.
O’Neil said they have worked with local establishments to get housing at reduced cost but they haven’t had the funds within their operating budget to provide a housing stipend for interns.
To make its internship program more competitive and to help bring in as many interns as possible, Possumwood has launched an effort to raise funds for its intern housing program.
They are seeking sponsors and donations through a Go Fund Me account online. Individuals may sponsor an intern for $650 or make a donation of any amount.
Those who sponsor an intern get a free group visit to Possumwood Acres and plaque to keep or hang at the sanctuary.
Possumwood leaders said there’s a two-fold benefit: The interns benefit from valuable training to further their education; and Possumwood benefits from 240 hours of manpower interns provide during their time working with the animals.
“It’s high quality experience we benefit from while they are with us,” Castillo said.
O’Neil said they had more than 1,100 animal and bird admissions last year and had to turn away others because of a lack of enough volunteers.
O’Neil said their volunteers are dedicated and passionate about their work but they can’t always do it all, and the interns that they typically have on hand between May and August are a valuable addition to the team.
The rehabilitation of the many baby birds is a demanding job requiring 14 hours of attention each day.
“The 40 hours a week of help (from interns) is a big benefit,” she said.
The more interns they can bring in the better, and any housing stipend they can provide them during their stay makes it easier for them to complete their internship.
“We’re really excited about getting this started,” Castillo said.
To sponsor an intern or make a donation, go to gofundme.com/possumwoodintern. For more information, call Possumwood Acres Wildlife Sanctuary at 910-326-6432 or email PossumwoodAcres@ec.rr.com.