Text: Jaime Mateu, presiden..
Photos: Ruth Zapater
The evolution of Voluntarios Itinerantes over time
As is life, our association has evolved with the passing of time. It’s been five years since Voluntarios Itinerantes began its journey. It all started in 2016 with a group of friends who decided to make their idea a reality: to help the animal shelters that needed it most.
For operational reasons, we limited our radius of action at the beginning: we could help shelters located 100 kilometres or less or one hour by car from Barcelona, and until recently we’ve kept our commitment. Although we’ve always wanted to go farther, the logistics are complicated and, truthfully, we hadn’t been contacted by any shelters beyond Catalonia.
The association ASPA Más que perros. Volunteers in action!
This all changed at the end of last year when we met a volunteer who was collecting food for a shelter in Socuéllamos (Ciudad Real), ASPA Más que perros (more than dogs). At first, we donated food for their dogs, but as we got to know each other better we saw a golden opportunity to plan a trip for several days with a group of volunteers who could make a great change at a shelter in a short amount of time.
ASPA (Socuéllamos Association for the Animal Protection) is an entity run by the good will of one person, Veronica. We’d like to say that this is a special case, but unfortunately, she’s just one more among the people who give their all with very limited resources to make sure that their animals live in better conditions and find a family as soon as possible.
The purpose of Voluntarios Itinerantes
Voluntarios Itinerantes was formed so that these people don’t feel alone, therefore we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help Veronica. So, we planned a trip for the first weekend of July. Yes, in the heat of the summer, we know.
Together with ASPA, we mapped out the needs, tasks, and priorities. We needed to recruit a great group of volunteers, fundraise to buy medication and materials, and coordinate well so that everything would run smoothly. This is almost always the case, but it never ceases to surprise me: people are willing to help. I want to think it’s because of our transparency, the incredible group of volunteers who make up this association and its organization. In less than 48 hours, 20 volunteers had already signed up and we had a Facebook fundraiser going.
An incredible experience
During the week leading up to the trip, we all started to feel nervous and excited about what was to come. We had a six-hour journey ahead of us, in vehicles loaded with food and medication for the dogs and volunteer ready to give their all. We had already discussed this with Veronica many times: when we left, we wanted to be able to see our progress.
The experience couldn’t have been better. We did a little of everything: organizing storage units, putting up shelves, painting 30 dog houses, general cleaning, repairs, covering the outer perimeter, tidying up, applying paint to combat the humidity, bathing the dogs, applying anti-parasite treatment, and, last but not least, giving the animals all our love during our three-day stay.
This is more than enough reason to repeat the experience as soon as possible, but in case you weren’t convinced, just read the genuine feedback from our volunteers:
— “I loved the group.”
— “It was great to share in this experience together.”
— “Honestly, I didn’t know many people in the group beforehand, but it was really great.”
— “I couldn’t have imagined that we would all get along so well.”
— “It’s been a pleasure to get to know the group better.”
— “When can we go back?”
Join our group of volunteers!
Personally, I couldn’t be prouder of this association and of each member of the group and the energy they bring to it. When 20 people travel 600 km to help at a shelter they’d never been to, and are willing to share sweat, laugher, and even tears with people they hardly know, that’s when you know that Voluntarios Itinerantes has achieved its goal: to go where we are really needed. From now on, I can only think about what our next challenge will be.
Voluntarios Itinerantes is a group of people who respond to the needs of various animal shelters in Catalonia. We work for animal welfare in shelters and santuaries. In all shelters, the needs are similar, but the priorities are not. In some they need us to walk the dogs and facilitate their socialization; in others they prefer that we clean and tidy up the facilities thoroughly. There are those who turn to us because they need medicine or food, and it is not uncommon for them to call us to build fences or create spaces where animals can live better. We form teams and move to where we are most needed!
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