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  • Writer's pictureAaron Bartlett

Be the change you wish to see.

It's time to make some big changes for the volunteers, for the employees, for myself, and for the dogs.

For over two years, we've operated here at Perros Libres to both great success and great controversy. The success is due to accomplishing our mission: many dogs have been rescued, rehabilitated, and adopted. Things are moving in a positive direction.

One of our adorable dogs: Aly


The controversy is primarily due to our living situation: the sanctuary has been showerless, very dirty at times, and difficult to maintain with various in-and-out volunteers. The living situation is one of the first and most important things to address: without happy volunteers and employees, the sanctuary cannot operate in continuum.

We have had many volunteers who have dealt with the difficult living conditions and yet love the heart and soul of this project. They didn't complain, they helped in every way they could. Volunteers who gave their sweat, blood, and tears but stayed with us until it was their time to head home. It was never easy or comfortable for any of us, and this is what everyone who has been watching our story already knows.

Throughout this year, we've experienced all kinds of challenges and difficulties: staffing the sanctuary, keeping the neighbors happy, splitting the pack, opening a new location; and the list goes on.

Artur and Anna in unfinished build


Our successes, however, started happening during the summer when we moved half of the dogs into a second sanctuary. It took months and thousands of dollars, but we got it done. We raised over $8,000 in May, June, and July from the Emergency Build-A-Shelter fundraiser. We could pay our employees for months, purchase much-needed new material, medicine, dog food, tools, wood, buckets, gloves, a hose, an extra propane tank, blankets, and sheets, and then started to operate the second sanctuary. Upon its opening, we immediately had employees who were the stewards of the land.

To split locations was like moving mountains. But because we had strong financial support at that time, it was able to be done as fluidly and easily as possible. Thank you so much for your support at that time, everyone who helped us do that. It saved our dogs.

Despite this win, we were having a hard time keeping employees and volunteers happy. We cycled through a lot of people, now just one remains: the best employee we've ever had: Pablo.

To clarify, it is simply me and Pablo currently working here (there are no current live-in volunteers), but Pablo currently resides in a brand-new apartment across from the second sanctuary. It is an incredible change, but resulted in us needing to give up our original volunteer house to do this.

Our best employee: Pablo

We did this because we currently have no volunteers due to the bottom of low season and conditions that haven't improved in a long time. The dogs and I surely have never experienced anything like this. We're ready to make this major shift in the right direction to perfect our model of the dog sanctuary and the organization of Perros Libres.

We need consistent employment to make two sanctuaries run properly. Without this, it will be impossible. Now that Pablo is in his new room and we have a NEW SHOWER, we can finally provide comfortable living conditions for our small yet stable team.


Exciting Volunteer Plans

As previously mentioned, we have not been able to get enough volunteers to help with the care of the sanctuary. It has been difficult to manage all ~50 pups with just Pablo and myself. One of the main reasons we have fewer volunteers is due to the fact that we were taken off our primary volunteer-finding platform, Workaway, when our shower stopped working. However, I am proud to announce that we have teamed up with a local hostel, Hostel Cascadas Xibaj, to provide much-needed housing for future Perros Libres volunteers!

We have an incredible agreement that will benefit our volunteers, Hostel Cascadas Xibaj, and Perros Libres. Volunteers who come can stay at the hostel, surrounded by incredible views in Lake Atitlan, in exchange for volunteering at the hostel and the sanctuary 50/50. We are excited to launch this new offer on Workaway now that we can provide proper housing for our dedicated and invaluable volunteers. We are excited by this new collaboration and the potential it holds for us to gain much-needed help.


Future Plans

Currently the sanctuary is on a rental property, however we ultimately plan to build our very own. If you are able to contribute to our construction fundraiser to build a bathroom and a brand new volunteer house, you will help us be the best dog sanctuary in 2024. We've experienced several challenges this year to the point where we nearly had to stop operating. It got way closer than I ever would have liked, and I have learned mountains of things from these experiences.

I'm confident that I am the right person to manage this operation and ensure the success of Perros Libres by overcoming obstacles, and expanding upon all the good we've done for the dogs and the community.

Volunteers with dogs at Sanctuary B


Time for big steps:

We're beginning the process to upgrade our Sanctuary. We're going to build a real bathroom, with hot shower and all, we're going to finish a half-completed house that will be for future volunteers.

With time, we can make this place into a sustainable community and project which will be able to take care of animals here for 20 years or more.

Because of our growing project, expansion into two locations, and the need to hire full staff year-round we continue the most ambitious fundraiser we've done yet.

We're asking for a total of $10,000 USD to upgrade all conditions & fund development of a comfortable and sanitary home for staff.

Yes, it is a high ask, but this will be funding put to very good work. It will build liveable and comfortable conditions for humans to perpetually run this project.

I know people usually are motivated to "donate for the dogs", but because of our near-failing conditions during this year from lack of happy people, and therefore constant relearning and readjusting....we need to shift this direction completely. It's a necessity for our health, wellness, and expansion into a full-fledged long term project and movement to continue to do the job we have created, and continue to rescue dogs on lake Atitlan.

Two volunteers prepping to walk dogs

Please consider donating to our cause to help us make Perros Libres sustainable for more than just two caretakers. Consider donating to help us meet our goal to build a proper home with our own bathroom, shower, and basic amenities so we can give our best to our incredible team and beloved dogs who so desperately need our love and time.

Here is the link to the fundraiser page direct, or you can donate below:

Thank you for helping us help dogs in need, and have a great day!

Libertad para los perros.

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