(application to a STRONG program, describing challenges I have faced and how I handled working with teammates)

Vida e morte. Life and death. A luta. The fight.

When I started working at Associação R3 Animal, a Brazilian wildlife conservation NGO, in September 2017, my challenge was to learn Portuguese in a work environment where tasks were portrayed as life or death situations.

Feed the animals in the wrong order, and the toucans die of hunger. Clean using the wrong equipment, risk spreading diseases throughout various cages, and the parrots die of chlamydiosis. Handle the ocelots first, and the marmoset monkeys die because of cross contamination. Misinterpret the veterinarian, and an animal dies in your hands. Forget to put on your safety equipment, and you die of an easily preventable zoonosis. Just simply scary stuff like that.

I thankfully didn’t have to face the daily 8am to 3pm challenges alone. There were 4 other kids from my gap year program working with me. Sophie, Trevor, Nico and I worked as a well oiled machine, tag teaming. We were really close, and always helped one another on tasks. We never stopped for lunch until everyone was done, so we would help each other. Together we faced the challenges, worked to understand and practice Portuguese and not mess things up. And we also passed the time together by talking about wild dreams. Or roasting me about my fear of animals.

I moved to Brazil with the intent of doing my part to save the environment, and I expected challenges on the way. So I was equipped with the right mindset to handle it. And it went fairly smoothly.  

Until Josie came into the picture. A 40-something year old bank teller recently turned biology student began volunteering at R3 Animal. And I don’t know what I did to her. I don’t know what her deal was. But she treated me as if I was a 5 year old child. She treated me as if I was too dumb to understand her, even though I clearly understood all the other faculty members. She wouldn’t listen to my warnings or advice, and when she got berated for doing something wrong, they would turn to me wondering why I didn’t help her. How could I? She wasn’t letting me.


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