TU seniors Ceanne West and Cassy Roderick spent their winter breaks with two types of tigers – their fellow students and the 400-pound wild cats.
The students participated in an Alternative Break Connections trip to the Carolina Tiger Rescue, which allowed them the opportunity to volunteer alongside the tigers, sometimes only a few feet away.
“When we were working on part of the fence, one of the tigers came up right next to us and was just sitting right there,” says West. “It was so cool to be able to work near them.”
Most of the tigers were rescued after previous owners mistreated them or could no longer care for them. West recalls two cubs that were exhibited at a hotel, but when the animals got older, hotel management no longer wanted them, she explains.
Each tiger has its own story. “It was great hearing about their personalities because [at the rescue] they were treated like they were people,” West says, recalling how the staff affectionately addressed each tiger by name.
The 10 students who went on the trip to Pittsboro, North Carolina helped construct a new fence, chopped wood, moved trees around the habitats and completed clerical work such as data entry. Some of the students were members of Towson Tigers 4 Tigers, a student group for tiger conservation.
“We were glad that we had people there who were so passionate about what we were doing,” West says.
TU Campus Life heads Alternative Break, which gives students the opportunity to travel across the country during winter and spring breaks to engage in community service. Students plan and recruit for the trips with the help of a faculty adviser. This year’s winter trips included the Carolina Tiger Rescue, Hurricane Sandy Recovery in New York City and a trip to a rural village in Jamaica organized by Hillel.
West and Roderick decided to lead a trip this winter after attending another alternative break last spring. While browsing a list of options for Alternative Breaks, they found Carolina Tiger Rescue and knew it was the right organization for the trip.
“We thought that would be perfect to promote it since tigers are our mascot,” Roderick says
In addition to meeting the tigers, Roderick says one of the highlights was meeting other TU students.
“It’s interesting to meet all these different people because nobody is from the same background or the same major,” she says.
Even if students don’t have previous volunteer experience, West encourages them to participate in an Alternative Break trip.
“When I went on my first Alternative Break, I hadn’t volunteered before,” she says. “It was just really cool to be able to do something to help others and meet people who want to do the same.”