Friday, 16 June 2017

WE NEED YOU... to come and build us a new monkey enclosure!

By Mark Kingston Jones

I’m sorry, you want us to do what?

Trying to persuade a company to sign up to build a monkey enclosure from scratch may seem like a huge ask and ridiculous challenge, but we believe it is one with huge benefits! You may be thinking, why are we doing this? Well Lakeview Monkey Sanctuary is a small charity which has been run for the last two decades on less than a shoe-string budget. It really needs financial support to continue the great work, rescuing primates from the pet trade, labs and circuses. It is the primary wish of Jimmy and Sharon Shaw who founded the Sanctuary to give all their charges a peaceful retirement in spacious woodland enclosures. To do this they need the money and as they have always built their own enclosures, help with construction in order to speed up the process.

So how does this fit in with our team building ethos? Well Chris and I experience extreme job satisfaction from construction projects like this and we know that is magnified for people doing it for the first time. It is our mission to improve animal welfare wherever possible and this is a fantastic way to meet that aim. Good enclosure design is critical to creating a good baseline for positive animal welfare, and designing something from scratch which is purpose built to meet the needs of its inhabitants is one of the best ways to ensure that the dream of a happy and comfortable retirement is met!

But when Jimmy and Sharon set out to build a new enclosure it can take anywhere from 1-2yrs depending on scale and budget, so what makes us think it will even work setting a deadline of 12 days for completion with people who may start out with no building skills at all? Well we have done it before! Our first major construction project was building a new enclosure for 2 vervet monkeys at the sanctuary. We invited previous attendees from our Student Courses to come and help construct the enclosure from scratch and over 6 weekends we went from clearing an area to finishing a 12m by 12m by 4m high meshed enclosure. As our average attendance was only 7-9 people per day and we were trying to fundraise for this project as we went along, we actually probably could have finished in 10 days. Sarah Eden, one of our attendees said of the experience:
'Before these build weekends, I would of not known the difference between a bolt and a screw…. I have learnt so much over the process of the build and many of us felt a sense of ownership over the enclosure and always ensuring we made each weekend. This is a totally unique experience, which no other collection offers. The sanctuary is such a tranquil location with the real rewards of building something, which matters and will improve the monkeys’ lives.  I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone!'

So that route worked, why are we not just doing that again? Funding was the biggest issue, every penny had to be scraped together and it was not productive time-wise. We relied on generous donations from companies like Arnold Laver, who imported and donated all the timber we needed to put the roof up, and in the end Jimmy and Sharon had to use their own money in order to pay for the night house and final mesh to make sure we finished at all. The price of this event will cover more than 70% of the money needed to build the whole enclosure up front, meaning we would benefit from bulk buy savings and reduced delivery costs. We would be confident we can raise the remaining percentage through fundraising and material donations.

In addition, as rewarding as the students found it, many came a considerable distance, as far as Liverpool and Slovenia, and so the costs of travel and accommodation were prohibitive for many who wished to attend. Despite this we had a core group who came to every single weekend, and we would like to reward them for their commitment by offering each of them a chance to come and help out on these build days, making use of the experience they gained from the first build project, and so some of the funds will also go towards supporting their travel and accommodation expenses. This is added CSR as your team will also be helping support the development of future animal care professionals.

It is still a lot of money though, so what about the expected outcomes? Well we have seen first-hand that this project will provide multiple opportunities for genuine team work, it will without doubt test the communication skills of your team, and also the organisation skills, as prioritising jobs, coordinating individuals and making sure everyone stays on track will be a critical component of the success of this project. There would also be an option to nominate a project manager from the team from the start to work directly with the Instructors, or give different members of the team the opportunity at the start of each day. At the end of each build day there will be a visible progression, leading to a huge sense of accomplishment and job satisfaction. There will also be many opportunities for a wide range of social media exposure as the project progresses and the wider press coverage for those companies that are interested in exploring this option. All this and a healthy dose of fresh air and exercise, what more could you want?

Logistics of how we organise the days will be in complete consultation with the company, and while our suggested option would be 12 Saturdays over a 6 month period, we are equally able to accommodate week days, or multi-day options depending on your needs.

The final outcome will be an incredible sense of team achievement – many participants will probably not expect to achieve the finished outcome, so seeing the completed enclosure with animals bouncing around in it at the final event will be EUPHORIC!


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