Maddy Rea’s Adventure
Maddy Rea [Seward High School, Class of 2016], set a goal early in her high school career to travel abroad and volunteer to work with animals. At first, her plan was to travel to Malaysia and work with Sea Turtles. When she discovered that this program was not accepting more applications, her research landed her in Yungas, Bolivia, at a place called La Senda Verde (which means The Green Path). Further research convinced her mom, CJ, that Maddy had found, “the most incredible place on the planet” and that this would be an amazing opportunity for Maddy to see her goal to fruition.
La Senda Verde takes in animals that were victims of illegal animal trafficking and, with the help of volunteers, tries to return them to a life as close to normal as they can have. It is illegal to re-release an animal once it has been trafficked in Bolivia. They are currently working with 550 different animals.
Maddy secured a position for two and a half months. She saved the money from her summer job to buy her tickets, visa, and pay for her volunteer position. Many of their volunteers are there for just two weeks. Volunteers like Maddy, who stick around, get to do a lot more with the animals. Her favorite animals to work with are what they call the “special animals.” These are all of the small primates (Lucachi, Squirrel, and Owl monkeys), Capybara and Paca (both really big rodents) and the Margays and Ocelots (cats). Based on skills she learned as a volunteer at the Alaska Sealife Center she is trying to train the Capybara (attached picture is a mural of a capybara). La Senda Verde has animals of all kinds; Spider, Capuchin, and Howler monkeys, Andean Spectacled Bears, Parrots, Toucans, Macaws, Tortoises, and Coatis.
Maddy’s days begin at 6:45 a.m. and she starts work at 7:30. She works until 5:30 p.m., has dinner and then socializes a bit. She works six days a week and on her seventh day she usually makes it into the town of Coroico where she has access to the internet. There are no other American volunteers. She lives in a dorm styled room with six other people, and has met people from Australia, Brazil, Belgium, France and other countries. She has also experienced tarantulas in her bed and the shower.
Maddy will return in mid-May to participate in graduation with her class at Seward High School and begin her summer work to save for college.