Volunteer Spotlight: Vicki Soon-Ai Low

Vicki Soon-Ai Low

How long have you been a FLAP volunteer?

I have volunteered for FLAP since 2007.

In what capacity do you volunteer?

I have done a few different things. I patrolled at Consilium Place until a few years ago (and was proud to be one of the witnesses in the lawsuit brought by Ecojustice against the building management). I also patrolled at the Manulife building at 200 Bloor East for a few seasons, but this fall I have been part of the team of drivers bringing birds to the Toronto Wildlife Centre.

I’m a copy editor by trade, so I also help Irene Fedun with the Touching Down newsletter and with whatever the FLAP team wants me to look over, including the text for the new website.

What initially drew you to volunteer with FLAP?

About 15 years ago, I interviewed Michael Mesure for a book on ecocities that I was compiling for a children’s publishing company I worked at. Unfortunately, the book was never published, but Michael’s message was so inspiring that when I left the company to go freelance, one of the first things I did was to contact FLAP about becoming a volunteer.

What keeps you motivated?

Every bird saved means, potentially, generations of birds born in the future. I must say I’m also continually inspired by the selfless dedication of the core team at FLAP!

Can you tell me about a particularly memorable or rewarding experience?

I’m not usually involved in releases, but one particularly busy morning I was asked to release a hummingbird that I had rescued at Consilium Place. It had been buzzing very actively in the paper bag and was obviously raring to go! I’ll never forget the way it landed for a moment on a purple coneflower, just to get its bearings, and then it flew in a big circle right over my head before zooming off. I know it sounds silly, but I really felt it was thanking me.  

What’s your favourite bird and why?

I have so many favourite birds, but my current favourite is the Oriental Pied Hornbill. I’m from Singapore originally, and the hornbill is a great success story there. It was wiped out through hunting in the mid-nineteenth century, but in the early 1990s a breeding pair was discovered on a small island off the northeast coast. A local conservation group put nesting boxes all over the main island of Singapore in hopes the population would come back—in just over a decade it became quite commonplace to see hornbills everywhere, including on the main shopping street downtown! I recently had a rather close encounter with a hornbill in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. I could see by the way it looked me up and down that it was checking me out as much as the other way around! I love this bird because it shows us that if we just give nature half a chance it will come roaring back.

Oriental Pied Hornbill. Photo: Vicki Soon-Ai Low

What would you tell someone who was thinking about volunteering with FLAP?

I have met a few people who say they would find it too sad to find dead birds as a volunteer. I understand that. It’s never not sad to discover a dead or injured bird. But I think the work of FLAP is to give meaning to all these unnecessary deaths and injuries—by tabulating data, studying the issue, and advocating for change. Also, whenever I do rescue a bird that is later released, it really makes my day!

On another level, I would say that, if you’re a bit of a loner and you’re not much into group activities, FLAP is a great organization to volunteer with. I always enjoy meeting my fellow volunteers, but the work I’ve undertaken for the organization has largely been solitary. I know it may seem like a strange thing to tout, and maybe a sad thing to admit about myself, but if you’re not particularly “clubbable,” you may find you fit right in with FLAP!   

Interested in volunteering with FLAP? Check out our volunteer page for more information.