If you’ve been following this blog regularly you’ve probably caught on to the trend that the 4-H experience is different for each and every 4-H’r. Every Member, Volunteer and Alumni has a certain experience that truly resonates with them and sticks out as a defining moment in their 4-H career, and this often expands to other facets of their life. For 4-H Member, Ben Smith, the 4-H experience that resonated with him was the ability to implement skills he learned from seven years of rabbit Clubs to save the life of his rabbit…twice. Thank you Ben for sharing your 4-H story. ______________________________________________________________________________ My 4-H Achievement By Ben Smith I joined 4-H in 2005 when I was ten years old. I had just gotten a rabbit as a gift from a friend who was no longer able to take care of it and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. My older sister was already a Member of 4-H and told me about how I could learn more about taking care of rabbits by joining one of the Clubs. So I did. After the first meeting I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to learn how to do the crazy things that the Leaders had talked about, such as flipping it on its back for health examinations. I immediately rushed home and began trying to flip my rabbit, very awkwardly I might add. I struggled to get a hang of it but I was determined. That first year in 4-H opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities and skills that I could learn. The next year I joined the Maple Syrup Club, along with the Rabbit Club, because it involved delicious treats. It was in that Club that I learned it would take 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup and how to identify the right maple trees by the colour and roughness of the bark. I learned how the Aboriginal peoples had originally made syrup in hollowed out logs with crude stone tools and was thankful that all I had to do was drill a hole into the tree. As the years went on, I chose new and exciting Clubs to gain more skills. I joined the Photography Club and finally learned what all of the strange symbols on my camera meant. This Club revealed a new passion I had. I later pursued more photography classes in high school to expand the knowledge I had gained from that Club. Another great leap for me was learning confidence while giving public speeches or talking to new faces. The judging competition held by our county was a great tool in that way. Learning to make opinions and judgements, and confidently sharing them with (to a large extent) complete strangers would become a valuable asset as I grew older and would begin to discover myself in high school. This confidence eventually landed me many roles in school plays, a position on the announcements team, and later the role as Prime Minister of my student council. These were opportunities that were greatly enhanced by the skills I learned in my early years in 4-H. All the while, I stuck with the Rabbit Club, discovering a passion for rabbits and even receiving the half joke title of rabbit whisperer. After spending seven years with the Rabbit Club, I have gained a great knowledge of rabbit health which eventually lead to my greatest 4-H achievement; saving the life of one of my rabbits. A rabbit that had initially come to me as skin and bones and containing a botfly larvae had become a prize-winning rabbit at achievement days. I had nursed it back to health with knowledge that I learned from the Rabbit Club. But several years later she became very sick while pregnant and eventually aborted the pregnancy. I immediately called a vet, who was able to give her an antibiotic but said the chances of survival were slim. Slim was not good enough for me so I watched her and cared for her and gave her regular examinations in the same format as our showing procedure. A month later the vet returned for a separate reason but was amazed to find the rabbit alive and beginning to recover. I learned a lot of new things in the last seven years and made many friends but my greatest achievement was the ability to save the life of a pet I loved.

Ben Smith is a senior 4-H Member who has been involved with the 4-H program for seven years. Ben has completed 12 Club projects including rabbit, leadership, miniature horse and maple syrup. He has held numerous executive positions in these Clubs including the role of President, Vice President and Secretary.