It all started with a cute video of a baby wombat at a sanctuary on my Facebook feed. Moved by the video, I looked a little further into what the sanctuary did for these timid, rarely seen creatures.  I emailed the Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary to see if Salesforce could help them through volunteering and their immediate response was ‘Yes please, some help would be incredible!’.

Why wombats need our help

Wombats are native Australian marsupials, resembling small bears with short legs. They are shy solitary creatures, who eat plants and roots and dig burrows for shelter. They typically sleep during the day and feed throughout the night and have poor eyesight but excellent hearing. Unfortunately, many wombats are injured or killed by cars at night as they wander across roads looking for fresh vegetation. The females raise their baby joeys in backwards facing pouches located on their bellies. Wombats are sometimes shot by farmers as they are seen as a pest when they eat crops or dig burrows on farmland. Some wombats that arrive at the Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary have suffered terrible abuse by people who illegally keep them as pets and release them into the wild when they get too big to handle. These wombats often don’t survive because they do not fear humans or dogs and they also lack the skills to find their own food or shelter.

Sleepy Burrows is a registered charity located 2.5 hours south of Sydney, just outside of Canberra, Australia. It is run by Donna and Phil Stepan, who for over 15 years have dedicated their lives to the rescue of orphaned and injured wombats in Australia. The sanctuary relies on donations to look after the 30-40 wombats in their care at any one time. They focus on caring for these wombats and training them to fend for themselves before undergoing a controlled release back into the wild. Sleepy Burrows is also keen to educate people about the amazing, secretive and often misunderstood wombat.

Salesforce volunteers assemble

Recently, 22 people from Salesforce Sydney volunteered to go and help out at the sanctuary. The opportunity to volunteer is encouraged as part of our 1-1-1 Corporate Philanthropy Model, where we allocate 1% of Salesforce’s technology, people, and resources to supporting Australian nonprofits. The wombat volunteers car pooled from Sydney and on arrival were greeted by a delighted Donna - complete with a young wombat in her arms. 

The sanctuary had never experienced volunteers in the past and it was obvious they were overjoyed at seeing so many people eager to help out. Our volunteers got to work right away, getting stuck into various tasks including clearing dead wood and leaves from around the enclosures. Other tasks included building new fences around enclosures and backfilling new drainage ditches. The highlight of the day was, of course, taking turns to play with and bottle feed the baby joeys. Donna remarked that the work we managed to get through on the day would have taken them months.

Love at first sight

It is very difficult not to fall in love with these gentle creatures. Each wombat that comes into the sanctuary is given a name - our group met Warra, Jackson, Eileen and Frankie. The wombat joeys take up a lot of Donna’s time, each needing bottle milk around the clock. Donna told me that she does 9 to 14 loads of washing per day to ensure the wombats have clean blankets. The young orphaned wombats also need a great deal of social interaction at this stage in their lives. As they get older, they are moved to enclosures to be ‘de-humanized’ and taught to fend for themselves in the wild. What Donna does for these creatures is incredibly tough, emotionally and financially.  The Sanctuary receives no help from the government and relies wholly on the donations from private foundations. Even spending just a little time in the sanctuary, it becomes very easy to understand why Donna and Phil do what they do for these beautiful creatures.

Salesforce for nonprofits

In addition to the physical help that we brought to the sanctuary, we are currently looking to set them up with so they can leverage Salesforce’s technology. This would reduce administration tasks significantly and enable the sanctuary to easily track information like location of rescue, medical treatments performed, costs and donations received for each wombat brought into their care. Sleepy Burrows thanked us again over email for the work we did on the day and Donna also mentioned that we came to help them at an especially difficult time as their local area had been hit with a series of devastating floods. In the lead up to the volunteering day, Donna said that she had been despairing at the constant rain. The sight of an army of people coming to help really lifted her spirits. It makes me very proud to work for the #1 Best Place to Work in Australia where they promote and encourage spending time helping those who need it most.

We are very excited to continue to help the Sleepy Burrows Wombat Sanctuary and already have enquires about our next trip!

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