Only a few months after meeting Elena and Guillermo over Skype I found myself on a plane on my way down to Chile to spend a week with the GAAP in beautiful Valdivia. I was very curious to finally be able to see their words in action. Questions like, “How is their clinic being run?”, “What do their community development programs really look like?” and a million others were circling through my head. I was also excited to get my hands dirty and help out with their invaluable work.
From day one, I saw the bottomless compassion that Elena, Guillermo and the rest of the GAAP team give the people and animals that they serve, and I saw the trust that the Chilean people have for the GAAP team as they bring their beloved animals to the GAAP clinic and programs. In several cases I saw community members invite the GAAP team into their own homes to share their experiences about the challenges of being good caretakers for their pets and domesticated animals while grappling with low wages or pensions, health issues, and a million other common problems in a developing country like Chile.
What sets the GAAP apart is their firm commitment to both animals AND people. The GAAP understands that you cannot help one without the other. We are all inextricably linked. The GAAP’s mission struck a deep chord with my personal and professional values, and I frankly think we need more organizations like the GAAP who are trying to improve health and wellbeing through creative and trans-disciplinary approaches. Just like animals and people are inextricably linked – public health, veterinary medicine, economic development and public policy are all inextricably linked, and you cannot address one issue without grappling with all the other pieces of the puzzle.
I am very honored to be joining the GAAP team as the Organizational Development and Relationships Manager and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside Elena, Guillermo and many other members of the GAAP community to identify new project opportunities, cultivate new relationships, and articulate long-term strategic directions for the organization. We see tremendous opportunities to expand the impact and reach of the GAAP programs!
And it’s already begun! The GAAP team has already taken incredible strides to alleviate the suffering of both animals and people in Latin America. They do it day in and day out by connecting with each person and animal that comes through their doors. When I asked a community member in Valdivia why he brings his animals to the GAAP he responded without hesitation, “The quality of life that they could give to my animal, in other words, the attention, that affection that is felt, that concern for the animals that you can feel.”