by Siobhan Rickert
The second week of my stay at the GAAP started with some more work on the para-vet project dividing up the information that the volunteers are going to give to Andrés. We want to make sure that he doesn’t just automatically get all of the information that he needs and that he asks the necessary questions to understand the entirety of why the animal needs medical attention like he will have to do with real cases.
I then went to GAAP directors Elena and Guillermo’s property and got to see where they are going to put the new nature center to educate children about the Valdivian rainforest and hopefully get them invested in protecting nature. I also got to meet Dulce, the horse that GAAP rescued from the wildfires last year. He was on a meat farm when the wildfires started. With the help of many different organizations, GAAP rescued him and took him to a hospital in Santiago where he was treated for severe burns on his face and legs, and smoke inhalation. After six months of hospitalization, he was ready to be discharged so they got in contact with the owners only to find out that he was just going to sell him for meat immediately after they got him back because they had lost everything in the fire and they desperately needed money. GAAP then decided to buy Dulce for how much the family would have gotten if they sold him for meat. You can see scars from the burns but Dulce is still healing very well. He is such a sweetheart and is now helping a client that was devastated by the loss of her dog by providing company for weekly walks.
I then spent the evening at a supermarket with Natalia (another GAAP volunteer) asking people to participate in an anthropological survey. The survey focuses on how people feel when they see dogs on the street in different situations. Camila, a student that worked with the GAAP earlier this year, started the survey a while ago. When they started to analyze the data, they found some interesting correlations but decided that they needed more data, so GAAP is working on getting 30 more surveys so that they can look more into the results.
The next day, I spent the morning imputing all of the data from the surveys into Excel. Before I did this, I worked with Dr. Garde on the best way to organize and divide that data into categories so that it will be easy to analyze in the future. Once I was done imputing the data, we realized that we needed some more precise information so we had to redo some of the surveys, so typical of research…
In the afternoon I worked with vet assistant Marina to create a manual for Vetter, a donated software that they use to organize the clinic, patient database and inventory. We were focused mostly on the inventory section because GAAP is starting to sell dog food and although Marina understands how the software works, if there is a day when she is not at GAAP and someone else needs to make a sale or intake inventory we want to have the process written down somewhere. I also went into an appointment with Dr. Romero on a young puppy with a very adorable little girl who is her owner. It was fun to see Dr. Romero asking her all about her pet and how proud this little girl was of her dog. Dr. Romero’s appointments are always 30 minutes or more and she takes the time to really talk to the owners and make sure that all of their questions are answered. This is not always how it works in veterinary clinics because they are too busy and don’t have the time or are more focused on the patient than they are on the connection between the patient and the owner, but this is something that the GAAP really works on.
On Thursday, I spent the morning working with Marina on the Vetter Software Manual. We had to figure out the best way to handle taxes and inventory changes. One thing that I have found is common about all non-profits that I have worked for is that you do whatever is needed to get the work done even if that means learning about complicated tax systems in different countries. Everyone just learns on the go and is so dedicated to the work that they will do whatever is needed for the non-profit.
There was also an appointment for a puppy to get her next round of vaccines. Her owner found her on the street covered in lice and brought her to GAAP. Now she is a happy growing puppy!
In the afternoon I meet Suzette, a new volunteer who is going to start working with GAAP. I ran her through all of the projects that I have been working on so that she will be able to take over and continue the work that I had been doing. It is very overwhelming at first to get a grasp of all of the different projects that you are jumping between but it all starts to make sense as you start working.
That day the GAAP team surprised me with some delicious cakes as a thank you for all of the work that I have done over the past two weeks. I couldn’t believe the next day was my last day!
My last day was very bittersweet. I wrapped up all of the work I had been doing and passed it on to Suzette. I had an amazing time working with everyone and learned so much! Over the past two weeks, I have helped in the clinic, worked on about six projects and learned about so many more. I am inspired by the amazing work and dedication that this team has to animals and people, it is truly unique. GAAP is working on so many things, all at the same time it is like juggling 25 balls but they always pull it off!
One of the things that impressed me the most during my time here has been how important it is to the GAAP team to work with both the animals and the people. I talked about it in the clinic and through their projects, it is pretty clear that this is a goal. One of the things I feel truly embodies their work is the fact that they ask people to pay. Now you might be thinking: they work with underprivileged people, why would they do that? Although they offer people the possibility to pay whenever they can and to pay according to their own resources, they feel strongly that it is important to not provide free veterinary medicine because then people do not take the responsibility for their animals and expect free care… which really doesn’t exist. Someone somewhere is paying for supplies and people spend a lot of time getting this money. For example, when they go to Guatemala for their ten-day campaign they spend the first couple of days educating the communities about responsible pet ownership and then, when they are doing sterilization surgeries later in the week, they charge $1-3 dollars for the surgery. This might sound like very little but for people in extreme poverty, this is not a small task. The intention is not to cover the cost but to show that veterinary care costs money and it is the owner’s responsibility to “invest” in the health of their pet. This is an example of the unique and, I believe, important perspective that GAAP provides.
Thank you so much for having me and welcoming me into the GAAP team and putting me straight to work! I will miss volunteering here and I am excited to get updates on all of the projects I am sure I will see everyone again, maybe in Guatemala…