Hello world! When I write to you it always feels like I stand up on an invisible Perros Libres podium. Hopefully one day we will speak on real podiums in English, Spanish, and Kaq'chikel. Our goal is for our message to reach beyond the first-world, beyond our audience who read this from computers. We aim to reach our local Tzununa community to make a significant long-term difference.
We can't simply rescue dogs, raise money, adopt dogs, and then claim that we're changing the world. Even though this does help, the REAL change comes from educating the local community, raising awareness of the real issues, and working together to make changes the dogs truly need.
We cannot be disheartened by how large the task is. Quoting Ghandi, "The journey of 10,000 miles begins with a single step." When one wants to change the world, they must take it a step at a time. That is how change happens: slow and steady. This describes our journey: we are continuously making steps toward our goals at Perros Libres. We can be the crux of this change, but we must focus outward and beyond our initial goals. We have to spread outward and build our relationship with the community in order for this project to succeed.
All of you reading this are taking this journey with me, including many Guatemalans and even indigenous locals to Tzununa. This is not, and will never be, a "foreign project" or imposition on the local way of life. No, it will be an improvement. And on paper, everyone agrees with what we’re doing: cleaning the streets of sick dogs, rescuing and rehabilitating all who need it, and giving the local people medicine, food (when possible), and education around all things related to dogs.
But the fact is, some locals still complain about the presence of our dogs in our part of the village. It's a small minority, but some of our direct neighbors have made it a point to throw rocks at the Sanctuary whenever they see fit. It has created violent altercations on more than one occasion.
I avoid writing about these negative experiences normally and wish to always focus on the positive. However, this is one part of our reality that I can’t ignore. We must befriend our neighbors and lower the number of dogs at Sanctuary A in order to bring down the dogs’ energy and noise levels for the community. With all of this I realize our job is not yet done. As the saying goes, we're not out of the woods yet.
Our two main goals are simply to:
1. Construct the volunteer house equipped with a real bathroom and shower.
This will allow us afford to pay rent on the land long-term. We currently pay to rent sleeping spots with equipped water and bathroom/shower set ups that cuts in to our budget. Finishing this project will end up saving us a lot of money and giving us more security in the long run. The finished bathroom and shower will make quality of life quite doable for most people, namely the incredible volunteers who come and take care of our dogs.
2. Adopt 24 dogs in 2024!
We currently have 34 dogs on-site at Perros Libres Sanctuary A. It is, unfortunately, too many dogs for the given space. I consider a healthy number 25, but if we can get as low as 10 dogs running Perros Libres becomes a walk in the park. We can grow in a steadier way. I can focus on writing better updates to sponsors, giving individual attention to every dog, and making the job easier on our staff (and our neighbors). Though our dogs are the main focus, the goal is to help the entire community. Having fewer dogs is probably the best thing I can give the locals at the moment. And if they are more content about our presence and number of dogs, we can have better conversations and experiences.
If we achieve our two goals, we will be able to solve our current problems with Perros Libres and help us achieve our mission. With your support, we can help improve the lives of the dogs in Tzununa and build a stronger relationship with our local community. No man is an island, no project can do it all, and nothing great ever got done without good people supporting each other.
Currently, we have raised $1,095.74 USD to aid our Build-a-Bathroom fundraiser! It is an incredible achievement, and since starting the fundraiser, I’ve lowered the goal to just $2,500 to focus on building the bathroom first. It is our biggest priority and will make the greatest difference in the sanctuary. We can pass sanitary codes and, even better, be able to use toilet paper, hot water, and a flushing toilet.
With the money already raised and some help from our fantastic workers, we have made incredible progress on the project! The hole is already 8 ft deep and counting, which will be the basis for the composting space the toilet will need. The hardest part is digging that hole, and we have our landlord and good friend Andres Yaxon spearheading the project.
Volunteer House Update:
We are going back on Workaway again! We've souped up the volunteer house and will be taking live-in volunteers to help the Sanctuary’s daily staff and team grow. We've had help from our amazing friend Krisztina helping us get this room into shape and by donating a stove. With the propane tank we bought and the all the sheets and blankets we washed, our space is better than ever. Pablo even hung up lights and repaired the broken (cold) shower!
Little by little, we are making this space what it needs to be to keep ourselves and workers/volunteers clean, well-fed and happy. These are the basics, and for many charity-organizations like ours those basics are not always easy to access. It takes a village. And that goes back to you guys.
THANK YOU for giving us such an incredible 2023. We bounced back from the most turbulent and stressful situations I've ever been in, let alone with over 70 dogs at one point for us to take care of. But now with less than half that number of dogs, we had a year we will never forget in 2023.
You can donate to this fundraiser below if you'd like to support our sanitation cause!
Here's looking to 2024, which we hope will be best year the dogs in Tzununa and at Perros Libres have ever had.
Libertad para los perros!