Manuela Rodrigues is no stranger to compassionate endeavors. Drawn to charitable work early in life, she tackled the challenging task of caring for abandoned and abused babies in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she was born and raised. Not long after that, she volunteered in Cape Town, South Africa to help underprivileged children suffering from disease, abuse, and neglect.
In 2004, Manuela moved to the United States and gained her US citizenship. A few years later, she met Amazon CARES’ founder, Molly Mednikow, and heard about her groundbreaking work to reverse the plight of street animals in Peru. Manuela’s love for all creatures, along with her strong drive to assist those in need, compelled her to pitch in as a virtual volunteer in 2008.
|From the start, Manuela & Molly shared a passion for helping needy animals.|
For a full five years, Manuela worked closely with Molly and her staff. First as a volunteer, and then as a trusted employee, she discovered the challenges and rewards of running a small animal charity in the Amazon River Basin. Despite numerous obstacles, Amazon CARES achieved many milestones during this period, and Manuela played a large part in helping hundreds of needy animals.
Both Manuela and Molly departed from Amazon CARES in 2013. Manuela left in order to start a family, and Molly decided to get her degree in animal law, while still retaining her position as Chairman of the Board.
Two years later, Molly and the board agreed that the Iquitos shelter and clinic required stronger oversight and consistent leadership. In late 2015, they unanimously chose Manuela as the best candidate to take on the challenge of overseeing Amazon CARES in both Peru and the United States.
As Chairman of the Board, Molly praised the change in leadership, saying, “My fellow board members and I are grateful for the fresh infusion of energy Manuela brings to Amazon CARES. We’re 100% confident in her strong management and administrative skills…she is a natural leader and has a genuine passion for animal welfare in developing nations.”
|Manuela gets some “snuggle time” with our shelter dogs on a recent trip to Peru.|
Manuela expressed gratitude for her new roles as President and Executive Director: “The volunteers, board of directors, and supporters are passionate about the mission of Amazon CARES,” she stated. “I am extremely impressed and proud of the high level of care we provide to each and every animal that comes to us. I look forward to working with such a great group of people, as we continue to provide shelter, care, and love to needy animals in the Peruvian Amazon Region.”
After she accepted her post in January of 2016, Manuela validated the board’s decision by addressing multiple issues and completely restructuring the organization. During her initial six months in charge, she enforced strict employee rules and regulations, oversaw the build-out of a new veterinary clinic, ensured that sanitary conditions were in place at the no-kill shelter, initiated street animal health campaigns, and supervised international vet volunteers who spayed and neutered over 200 community cats. Not a bad way to kick off her first year!
|Manuela assists in the clinic as our chief vet, Dr. Edwin Inga, examines a patient.|
As she continues to manage multiple responsibilities in both Peru and the United States, Manuela’s many tasks include:
• Overseeing all budget decisions and purchase orders
• Managing donations and fundraising efforts
• Hiring and firing employees
• Recruiting and managing both on-site and “virtual” volunteers
• Recruiting and supervising international veterinary volunteers
Again, our founder, Molly Mednikow, says it best: “Manuela is one-of-a-kind…truly the glue that held Amazon CARES together during years of unprecedented growth, and the super-glue that will guarantee even greater success.”
When she’s not working or taking regular trips to Peru, Manuela enjoys life in America, keeping busy with her family, “fur family,” and ongoing philanthropic activities. Named “Changemaker of the Year” by Change.org in 2008 and 2009, and honored with President’s Volunteer Service Awards in 2010, 2011, and 2012, Manuela brings a fierce determination and a wealth of experience to her new roles at Amazon CARES.
|Hard-working staff and canine residents pose for a selfie with Manuela.|
The results of Manuela’s efforts show plainly in the renewed productivity of our shelter and clinic, and in the faces of countless street animals who receive a second chance at health and happiness!