Last year while living in the tropical paradise of Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, one of the southern states of Mexico, I decided to spend some of my free time volunteering. Like in many developing countries there are issues. The one issue that broke my heart daily was the treatment of dogs. Stray dogs and even most pets have hard lives and pretty dismal living conditions.
When money is low, animals tend to come second. What I couldn’t understand was the foul treatment of the dogs and cats, some people treated them like they were less than furniture. I understand that strays exist due to lack of education and lack of money and resources to de-sex the animals, so I started researching to see if there were any Veterinarians in the area trying to change this.
One night myself and my boyfriend were having dinner near the beach and as usual a few stray dogs were roaming around. One lovely pit bull strolled into the restaurant and caused a little scene as he upset a patron’s little Chihuahua, not by being aggressive but just by being there. The commotion led to me calling the friendly pit bull over to our table away from the Chihuahua. He sat with us for dinner and we had a few cuddles. I noticed some large scars down his back and some wear and tear on his young face. As we were finishing up dinner a lady walked past, gave him a pat and told me, “He is new to the area, he must have been abandoned.” Then, she told me that there was this animal clinic, just down the road that has a sterilization (de-sexing) program every Sunday.
My ears pricked up. Where, who, how do I help?! She told me the group was called Esteriliza Y Educa (Sterilize and Educate) and they were a team of veterinarians, nurses and local people who get together on Sundays for large free campaigns to help sterilize stray and pet dogs and cats in the area for small donations. I was handed the owners number and address and left the restaurant feeling pretty hopeful and with the intention of dropping by Esteriliza Y Educa that Sunday.
When Sunday came, off I went. I met Alejandro García, the owner who runs the program, and asked him how I could help. The setup was basic but worked perfectly. They had a few tables, the medications they needed and some great vets and volunteers. I started off by assisting with surgeries and helping organise admin then moved on to improving their social media, taking photos and increasing exposure.
I loved every second volunteering and it showed me that there are people that do care about animals and strays in Mexico. It gave me hope that the situation could change for the better and there were many people willing to contribute. Travellers who had veterinary skills volunteered their time, and vets travelled from other states of Mexico to help during the free sterilization campaigns that last for 10 days or more at a time.
The dedication from all of the volunteers was impressive, and it was contagious! When people have a passion, and put their hearts into issues they care about deeply it inspires you. I ended up spending about 6 months helping at Esteriliza Y Educa.
If you get the chance to volunteer with a great organisation during your travels I highly recommend it. The experience will change your perspective on the world and you will receive an experience unachievable by any other means. Donating your valuable time to something worthwhile is an incredible feeling.
I now live in Oaxaca City, Mexico a few hours from Puerto Escondido, but I look forward to heading down to the beach soon and volunteering again with Esteriliza Y Educa. If you would like to learn more about the team, volunteer or donate to the cause, check out the their Facebook Page.
Have you volunteered with animals or with another charity? Please share your experience with our readers in the comments below! Read Next > Volunteering At The Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai