Animal A.W.A.R.E. (Animal Welfare Association - Rescue/Education) is the largest a non-profit, non-governmental animal shelter in Central America (outside Mexico). They are dedicated to the rescue and welfare of abandoned or abused animals. Founded in 1998 in Guatemala by Xenii Nielsen (USA), Gina Illescas (Guatemala), and Pamela Hirst-Prins (England), AWARE currently houses over to 400 animals. AWARE holds spay/neuter and vaccination clinics that are affordable for local people with scarce resources. This year their goal has been to hold these clinics monthly.
Over the years, SPCAI has built a trusted relationship with AWARE and we have been able to provide veterinary supplies and cash grants on several occasions. This past June, we were able to send a small team to Guatemala to see our supply aid donations and financial grants at work during a monthly sterilization clinic. We were very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see their incredible work first hand. In just six hours, the team of one vet, two vet-techs and a few volunteers, sterilized 30 animals at little or no cost to their loving families.
AWARE has made incredible progress since their founding. 10 years ago, they felt lucky to hold a sterilization clinic once a year and have anyone show up due to the lack of education about the importance of spay and neuter. This past June, we were amazed to see the number of families that arrived early and stood patiently in line waiting to have their beloved cat or dog be altered. This change has only come about because of AWARE’s effective, ongoing education campaigns.
This family came to the SPCAI spay & neuter event yesterday at AWARE in Guatemala. Their rottie had a tumor on his leg (you can see the bandage). They asked the vet to look at it during his neuter surgery. The vet said the leg would likely need to be amputated due to the size and placement of the tumor. The mother broke down in tears, sobbing. This was her husband's dog and her husband has passed away - their rottie is a special connection to him, and in a country where people consider a dog missing a leg worthless this woman assumed amputation was a death sentence. The workers at AWARE explained to her that they have many dogs with 3 legs that cope very well and live happy lives at AWARE. They showed her some of these residents and told her that amputation would improve his life and allow him be with them for many more years to come. The mother stopped crying and replied, "Oh, I feel so much better. Thank you!" This is the kind of education and healing AWARE provides every day. Our hats are off to this amazing team!
AWARE encourages national and international adoption of the resident animals at their shelter in Guatemala, so they can make room for new animals in need and continue to their rescue efforts. If you are interested in adopting an animal, consider one of AWARE’s lovable residents. A few are featured on our adoption page at: http://spcai.org/get-involved/adopt.html.