I first arrived at the ARCAS Rescue Center in Petén in October 2005 and remember that I was immediately stricken by the tropical heat. Since I planned to stay for ten months I had a big rucksack and a suitcase – half of my household – and I was grateful when Bernardo (a staff member of ARCAS) offered to help me carry it up the hill to the volunteer house.
Over the next couple of days, I settled into life at the Rescue Center, the daily routine of feeding the animals at 7AM and 3PM, and meals chatting with the volunteers and staff, and of course, caring for the animals, which is the focus of everyone’s attention. I wanted to improve my Spanish, so I tried to spend more time with the staff during meal times. Over the course of my stay at the Rescue Center, I got to know the staff, who were all very helpful and friendly and welcomed me into the ARCAS- family.
I know it sounds like a cliché to say that my experience at ARCAS was a great experience and that it was life-changing, but it really was. For one thing, it helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life. Before I went to Guatemala I was planning to become a veterinary surgeon, but when I helped Fernando (the ARCAS vet) on surgery on an injured bird, I almost blacked out. The sight of the blood sent shivers down my spine and I started sweating and had palpitations. From that moment on I knew that I had to do something else for work. Since that time I study law with a focus on international environmental law.
ARCAS touched my life and I continue to support them by fundraising among my friends and family and each year sending them a donation. I still consider the Rescue Center in Peten to be “my project”, as I say, joking with the staff each time I visit Guatemala. I appreciate the fact that ARCAS has created an atmosphere which allows people like me who care to actively participate in the conservation of Guatemalan wildlife feel. This is just a little anecdote to say that ARCAS touched my life and made me think about my place in the world!