Charities We Love is a monthly series featuring inspirational charities from around the world. At We Are Travel Girls we care about giving back and hope this series will help our readers learn about charities and non profit organizations that are doing incredible work. This month we are excited to feature Soy Callejerito Animal Shelter.
Peru is an absolutely beautiful country. It also happens to be my country of birth. I moved to the United States as a little girl and have always had fond memories of my life in Lima. Recently, I returned to Peru on a trip that turned into one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While living in Peru for the summer, I decided to give back to the community by volunteering at Soy Callejerito animal shelter in Cusco.
ANIMAL NEGLECT IN PERU
Animal abuse exists everywhere in the world, but it is quite noticeable in Peru. There are many neglected dogs and cats roaming the streets, many of which have been abused or abandoned by their owners. These animals will likely never experience better lives with a roof over their heads or affection. After witnessing this sad reality, I decided to head south of Lima to Cusco, to volunteer with Soy Callejerito Animal Shelter (meaning “I’m a stray dog”).
ABOUT SOY CALLEJERITO ANIMAL SHELTER
Soy Callejerito houses around 150 dogs, and is operated by Anyelo and Maite. These two Cusco natives met six years ago when Maite helped Anyelo rescue a dog. The experience was so rewarding that they decided to work together in this mission. Caring for this many dogs is difficult, and Maite and Angelo need all the help they can get!
Sadly, every dog at the shelter comes with a story of neglect or abuse. Each one is looking for a loving home with a committed family that won’t give up on their pet. However, I noticed that not one of the dogs were aggressive. To the contrary and despite their backgrounds, most dogs were very playful and docile. Despite their prior mistreatment, these dogs stay happy, and have hope to be adopted into healthy and caring homes.
THE SHELTER’S DAILY STRUGGLES AND NEEDS
Upon my arrival at the shelter, Anyelo and Maite asked me to help get some of the dogs out of their kennels. The kennels were very basic, with dirt floors and a few old blankets and towels that had been donated. I noticed that bedding was very minimal, even for puppies. During the winter time, it can get very cold at night, so Anyelo and Maite are doing all they can to make the dogs comfortable with limited resources.
The shelter has only one source of water and it is cold. This water is used to clean the bowls and supply the animals with drinking water. Often, as is common in Cusco, the water service shuts off around noon. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to ensure all of the dogs have water to drink even after water is shut off.
Another ongoing issue for Anyelo and Maite is that they have used several different properties as the location for the shelter. Unfortunately, the property owners do not share in the same animal rescue mission as Anyelo and Maite. Landlord’s quickly raise the rent after only a few months to encourage Anyelo and Maite to move out. They moved into the current location about 4 months ago, but will likely have to move again in a few months.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN VOLUNTEERING AT THE SHELTER
Each day I, along other volunteers from Europe and the United States, assisted Anyelo in caring for the animals. This included feeding the dogs, cleaning kennels, removing and changing water bowls, and, most important, giving the animals lots of affection. This is a typical day at the shelter, and it was very rewarding.
In my short time working at the shelter, I gained insightful information about the realities of animal neglect. I also learned about the tremendous work it takes to operate a shelter as a two-person team. Overall, I was glad to learn that there are people in Peru who truly care about the well-being of local animals. Watching these people dedicate their lives to care for neglected animals, with the little they have, was inspiring. I grew fond of each dog and was very thankful to have been given this amazing opportunity.
HOW TO VOLUNTEER
Proyecto Peru, an organization that aims to connect foreign individuals with volunteer opportunities in Cusco, placed me in this particular project. Going through an organization like Proyecto Peru is helpful because they can coordinate language classes, homestays, and help resolve issues you might encounter while abroad. Basically, Proyecto Peru takes care of the logistics so that you don’t have to from afar.
The company also gives volunteers the option to learn Spanish or Quechua dialect while abroad. Because I am already fluent, I didn’t take these classes. However, it seems like a great idea for volunteers who want to pick up some language skills!
CULTURAL IMMERSION WHILE VOLUNTEERING
During my volunteer project, I chose to stay with a local host family. This made my volunteer experience even more rewarding. I really wanted to feel like a local rather than a visitor, and I certainly did. My Cusco host parents were so sweet and went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and at home.
Staying with a local family allowed me to immerse myself in a traditional setting and Cusco lifestyle, and to share meals and experiences with locals. I would highly recommend staying with a host family while volunteering in order to get the most meaningful and educational experience. You’ll learn more about the place you’re serving and get connected to the community. After all, community is what volunteering is all about.
Generally, I worked during the weekdays and spent evenings with my host family. I then had the weekends free to explore Cusco and its surroundings. Staying with a host family means you’ll also get some great tips on places to visit, foods to try, and safety precautions to take!
OTHER WAYS TO GET INVOLVED
Anyelo and Maite do not receive any government support. Instead, they rely solely on donations and volunteers. Even if you aren’t able to make the trip to Cusco to volunteer, you can support the shelter by giving a donation. The shelter’s goal is to raise awareness and spread the word about their basic needs.
For instance, many of the dogs living there have serious medical conditions that need proper veterinary care. Unfortunately, Cusco only has a handful of full service animal clinics, and they are expensive. While volunteering, I met a lovely chocolate Labrador sick with cancer and in need of medication. Another pup had been run over by a car needed surgery to fix his back. Sadly, the list goes on.
Also, materials are needed to build proper homes for the animals. The shelter also needs to buy dog food, which is a high daily expense for over 100 animals. So any little donation makes a difference and will go toward needs like these.
Cusco was truly a gem. While I visited a few iconic places during my stay, it was just as important for me to give back to society in some way. Considering how significant the animal neglect problem is in the area, I was glad to be placed with this particular organization. I hope to inspire other to not just travel for leisure, but to give back to the communities they visit who are in need. To read more about Soy Callejerito shelter and learn how you can help, please check out their Facebook Page.
To make a donation and find out exactly where you money will be going to improve the facilities and lives of these animals please visit the How You Can Help page on Soy Callejerito’s website.
We hope that this article has inspired you to get involved with Soy Callejerito Animal Shelter. If you have any questions about the organization please leave these in the comments below.
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