Interview with Kristen Winn, Veterinary Assistant from Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Kristen is a member of the Veterinary Ventures October 2011 volunteer trip to the Amazon region of Peru. Most of her time was spent near the Colombian border in the District of Caballo Cocha.
Amazon CARES: What were your expectations from this trip?
Kristen Winn: I expected to be part of a team with similar goals in terms of learning about a new culture, helping animals with the added bonus of improving my skills as a Veterinary Assistant.
AC: Did you have any fears or expectations about the trip?
KW: No. I am pretty adventurous and I love to travel. I like the challenge. My parents and and husband were fearful. "You´re going where!?!" But here I am! The trip met all of my expectations.
The team was really great. I was also impressed with the way the people treated their pets and really loved them. They came in to have their pets spayed or neutered and they stayed and waited and asked questions and were all so joyful to get their pet back. One thing I noticed was a street dog asleep in the street and the way people would step around the dog rather than shoo them away. I never saw cruelty to animals, just respect for their own pets as well as for street animals. It is very heartwarming.
The Amazon CARES team is amazing. I am really impressed with how well your team functions together. Your Director in Peru, Bruno Antoine, is so energetic and enthused about helping animals and people and he is so patient with us! We spent most of our time with Vet Luis and Vet Nurse Harry. They are hard workers with big hearts and they showed a lot of patience with us. I am very impressed and I am also impressed with your shelter and what you are doing. I said it to you when I arrived...that a lot of people dream about doing something like this and that is what you are doing and CARES deserves a lot of kudos for that.
Where I´m from in Portland, if I find a stray dog or a sray cat, I have to work really hard to find somebody to take them in. A lot of agencies around Portland, when you call, they say they are full and they don´t even have a waiting list. It's not often that I hear "We have room." and "I´m not going to turn away an animal that needs me." and "That´s my mission and I´m going to fulfill it." To have Molly, the first day, tell us that if we see a dog that needs help, bring him in, and that CARES will have room and care of the dog is something so unique and special...it was something that really touched me.
AC: I understand you do a lot of work internationally and nationally in the USA. Is that correct?
KW: I do a lot locally. I´m on the United States Human Society National Disaster Animal Response Team (NDART) and I´m on the American Humane Association Red Star Team and we´re deployed, mostly in the United States to natural disasters, and recently, unfortunately, we've had some hoarder cases that we were able to go in and provide sheltering for those animals. I´m on some local teams and I volunteer for several local shelters and Humane Societies.
Internationally, I focus my work in Loreto, Baja California Sur which is in Baja, Mexico. There is a clinic there called Animalandia that originally started the way CARES did, spaying and neutering street dogs and dogs that were in the dump, and now have, through education, begun to focus more spaying and neutering on pets, mostly dogs but some cats. My husband and I purchased a second home there because we are so passionate about Animalandia and helping the dogs and cats. Actually, there´s not a lot of water down there so there are many goats and donkeys and horses that need hay and water, so there are many animals that need assistance.
It´s our dream that someday we could have a shelter attached to the spay and neuter clinic so that we could house dogs and cats or any other animal needing shelter and develop a relationship with some shelters in the Portland area where we could bring animals to the States where they could be adopted. Our dream is kind of what you had as a dream and that you fulfilled and that one day I hope to fulfill.
AC: How long have you been involved with Veterinary Ventures?
KW: I became acquainted with Vet Ventures about 5 years ago. I met the Founder, Joi Sutton, and worked with them for a day at their warehouse sorting supplies and I was really impressed with their organization. Scheduling conflicts have prevented me from going on a few trips but the timing was right when the Peru trip came up, so I thought that it would be a place I hadn´t been to in Latin America, and I wanted to work with Vet Ventures. I did some research on Amazon CARES and I was sold.
AC: We´re so happy that you were sold on it! Would you recommend this trip to other people?
KW: I would. Especially our trip to the North to Caballo Cocha near the Colombian border was probably experience of a lifetime. We visited these remote villages and we were the hit of the day! When we arrived the town was waiting to greet us with a full band. The Mayor was there to greet us, and at the end of the trip we all got official certificates from the town. At the end of our campaign we had a World Animal Day Parade and it was probably one of the most fun things I have ever participated in. The whole town turned out with banners and posters and the children came with their animals and lined up behind the band and paraded through town. There were turtles on leashes, little green parrots, cats, dogs, larger birds, rabbits and even some of the dogs that CARES had sterilized over the previous days. Those kids stayed afterwards and let us take pictures and hold their pets and it was the highlight of the trip, actually.
AC: What did you think of your accommodations?
KW: I was very impressed with how organized things were in Caballo Cocha. We had private rooms and I loved the food and all the fresh vegetables that I love to eat. Our best meals were actually at the CARES shelter in Cabo Lopez! Your volunteer lodging is great and we have private rooms and flushing toilets and after a long day it is great to come hold and take a shower and eat a great meal and enjoy the whole group.
AC: Did you miss having TV, mass communication, radio, the Internet, etc.?
KW: Didn´t miss it a bit!
AC: I know you´re very involved with your work in Mexico, but do you ever see yourself returning to Peru again?
KW: Yes! Absolutely. I like the culture. I like the people. I like what CARES is doing down here and I can definitely see myself returning.