By: Sergio Ribeiro Jr., Winter Work & Travel Participant and Greenheart Club Member

Sergio is a winter Work & Travel Participant  from Brazil who is working at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. When he isn’t working Sergio has managed to volunteer 30 hours at an animal refuge center nearby. Below he shares his experience volunteering in the USA.

Sergio (in front) with coworkers at the Westin.

First, I’ll explain how I got here. In my home country Brazil I was already involved in volunteer work.  I worked as a volunteer in a program called “Student Storytellers.” In this program, college students tell stories to sick children who are being treated in our university’s hospital. I loved to be part of that volunteer work. And when I received the Greenheart Club invitation to do  volunteer work in USA during my Work and Travel program, I didn’t think twice. So I did research on the internet looking for volunteer work in the city where I would be living of Scottsdale, Arizona. I found some nice places, but one in particular caught my attention most, and that was Liberty Wildlife. I love animals and I just love the idea of helping and saving them. So that’s what I have been doing since the end of December.

Sergio with a hawk at Liberty Wildlife

At Liberty we help all sorts of animals, but due to Arizona’s great populations of birds, we mainly treat them. There is a lot of work to be done, people can help in many different ways. There’s the education team, that helps people get more in touch with the wildlife, so they go to schools, and public places to bring more information and let people appreciate the wildlife closely. There is the orphan care team that works with the new born animals, but they just do this work from April through September  which is mating season. The hotline team works from home and they receive the emergency calls. Hotline volunteers dispense information, direct people to the rehabilitation facilities, or call in the Rescue and Transport team. The Rescue and transport team bring in the injured animals from the field.

Finally, but not less important  is the daily care team, which I’m part of. Some of our duties include: enter cages with food, rinse and refill water dishes, keep feeding logs, and clean and disinfect cages. Some of the birds for either illness or lack of strength don’t eat by themselves, and when this happens it is our job to guarantee that these birds receive the necessary nutrients for their recovery. So the daily care team intervenes with what we call tube feeding, hand feeding or force feeding. Daily, we deal with owls, hawks, eagles, osprey, doves, ravens. Each one has it own diet that should be precisely respected. We weigh the food and give it to them, and we have to check in their cages if there is remaining food from the day before, in order to guarantee that the bird is really eating the food on their own. We have great days when a bird is released in their natural habitat, but we also have bad days when a bird dies or an euthanasia has to be done.

At Liberty, we can never say that things just happen and that you cannot do anything about it; in fact you can really do something. Keeping this in mind, I try to do my best to stay positive and hope for better days. I’m really glad I accepted this challenge and experienced it. I have gotten to see and hold so many rare and exotics birds, and I also  have learned so many things about them. I have met so many nice people here that have embraced me on their team. I’m so thankful for the opportunity.  While I haven’t changed the world, I feel that I am moving in the right direction.  I’ m pretty sure that the birds of Arizona think the same way.