How volunteering during COVID-19 broadened my worldview

How volunteering during COVID-19 broadened my worldview

How volunteering during COVID-19 broadened my worldview

This year has been labeled the Great Reset of 2020.  For many, Covid-19 has taken away plans, events, and opportunities.  But simultaneously, it has given us a new set of plans, a change in our events, and opportunities that were not possible before.

I live in Nicaragua, where I create personal growth experiences through immersive travel.  While my in-country Retreats have been placed on hold, the professional shift for me means I now do more online coaching one on one, and virtual retreats to groups online.

Because of this year’s tumultuous unexpected shift in how we work and live and spend our time, I’ve discovered opportunities that didn’t exist before. I’ve been able to engage in one of the many extracurricular activities that matter to me: volunteering to support animal welfare in Nicaragua. 

Volunteering during COVID-19 has revealed at least 4 important gifts. Actually, the truth is that the pandemic hasn’t so much as gifted me with these, but reminded me of a few essential elements to happiness that I had within my reach all along:

  • Time
  • Understanding
  • Reflection
  • Mindset Shift

With more time on my hands, I responded to the call of a local business that supports animal welfare in Nicaragua, Artemisa Animal Hospital.

Ivana Cerni, the Director of Artemisa Animal Hospital
Ivana Cerni, the Director of Artemisa Animal Hospital

Animal Welfare in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and is the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere.  There’s widespread underemployment and poverty.  Approximately 30% of the population lives on less than $2 per day. In rural areas, poverty rates are especially high, where 50% of households live in extreme poverty. 

This leaves little to no funding for animal companions.

Tick-born diseases, starvation, and malnourishment are the leading causes of death in dogs. An average dog’s lifespan in Nicaragua is 4-6 years.  

For the past several years, Ivana Cerni, the Director of Artemisa, has personally cared for the health of local animals.  This means rounding up volunteers to help her collect homeless strays and provide them with vaccinations, sterilizations, and medicines if they need it.  She also educates local families and pet owners on how to best provide care for their animals, once they receive a sponsor.

This is a BIG job, and when she’s making the rounds, loading her truck up with volunteers helps her mission immensely. 

Not just in the rounding up of puppies to give them vaccinations, or remove ticks from their ears, but also to demonstrate the importance of this work to the locals, and motivate them to be proactive in caring for the animals.  

As finances are an ever-present issue for this part of the developing world, the raising of funds to pay for medicines, surgeries and spaying is an important part of her work.

Christy volunteering during COVID-19

My Story of volunteering during COVID-19

With the extra time on my hands, I jumped into the truck with Ivana one day to help support animal welfare in Nicaragua. 

While Artemisa does the bulk of the work – organizing locals to ready their animals, administering vaccines, my job was to help calm nervous dogs by petting them and making them feel safe while they waited their turn for a shot.  

I helped remove ticks from the ears of shaky puppies, and talked with pet owners, thanking them for showing concern for their animals, and encouraging them to always seek out help for the health of their pets.   

For me, while I have lived in Nicaragua for 6 years, being hands-on support for animal welfare and seeing the efforts up close made an impact on me.  

While my Retreats here mostly work with Nicaraguan farmers and students (i.e, humans), the skinny, mangy dogs I see running seemingly homeless created the impression that the locals here just don’t care for their animals. 

Gaining Understanding

Spending time volunteering during COVID-19 in the homes of Nicaraguan families taught me more about this culture.  I understood how much the local families DO care. Poverty impacts their ability to pay for the needs of their animals. Consider just the extra cost to spay and neuter, which prevents the dog population from growing and increasing the need for ongoing care.

Reflection

Volunteering on those hot, dusty days to help families support their malnourished animals also created space for personal reflection. Volunteering during COVID-19 made this personal reflection even more profound.

The virus has had a domino effect on world economies. Less travel impacts tourism.  The already impoverished communities in this area rely heavily on tourism.  When tourism slowed to a trickle, many Nicaraguans lost their job, and their pets’ healthcare was last on their list of needs. 

The time I spent volunteering allowed for deeper reflection that not only could I finally find time to help a cause I believe in, but I could help others who had also suffered a financial loss due to the pandemic. 

Mindset Shift while volunteering during COVID-19

In addition to offering my support, I learned something new about this culture I love living amongst. I realize it’s not that they don’t care for their animals, rather the truth is . . . . they can’t. 

I see the local families differently now, with greater empathy.

Thus begins the shift in mindset that I hadn’t expected. I expected to help but didn’t expect to pivot my perspective.

I had the time to volunteer during COVID-19 for a cause I care deeply about. This increased my understanding of other issues in the world outside my own. This understanding caused further reflection. We all have our own forms of suffering and hardship, and helping others will only activate good.  

And good is contagious. 

Shifting from feeling sorry for myself to putting myself to work for others gave me peace.

It moved me from a place of helplessness with my own pandemic-induced frustrations to becoming more helpful to others.  

Puppies benefit from volunteering during COVID-19

Who benefits?

The puppies.  Those less fortunate than us in times when we feel so unfortunate about our predicament.

Find the GOOD in your own community by volunteering during COVID-19

Activate Good is a non-profit organization I came across last year, when we were both presenters at the same Hero Round Table Conference

Activate Good understands what it means to direct inspired actions towards something good. It galvanizes others to do the same.  Those being helped benefit, and those who volunteer also benefit.  

And, while I don’t encourage volunteerism for self-serving purposes, the truth is that helping others makes you feel better.  In an authentic, feel good, change your mindset, fine-tune your thought patterns kind of way. 

It can be tough to accept that the important things you set your mind to at the start of 2020 just didn’t play out the way you planned.  But resetting the definition of “important things” has been eye-opening for many. 

This year my time was still filled with important things. 

And volunteering provided me with the opportunity to put action behind my beliefs.

Ready to spend a little time volunteering during COVID-19?  If you’re an animal lover like me, then I recommend checking out these organizations:

Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge

Blackdog Club

All Breed Animal Rescue of the Carolinas

Cat Angels Pet Adoptions

Wildwoods Community Farm

Take Action

Take Action

Check out hundreds of volunteer opportunities with causes around the Triangle area and volunteer to make an impact.

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