“My GLA experience definitely provided even more spark to make this project something bigger, and to continue my volunteer efforts.”
Name: Savannah Baus
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Transformational Experience: Bali: Global Health Initiative 2018
Making An Impact: Founded Project Agua Pura, a refuge for animals displaced when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017
Passion: Animal rescue, sustainable gardening
Savannah Baus has a lot of respect for the power of mother nature.
When hurricanes Irma and Maria hit her home in Puerto Rico back to back in 2017, “it was surreal. Things were flying through the air that seemed impossible.” Savannah’s family came through unscathed; unfortunately, many households in her community were not so lucky. Wind speeds of 175 miles per hour destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure, destroying homes and leaving over three million people without electricity and thousands without housing.
Many of the island’s four-legged friends also found themselves displaced: dogs, cats, even horses and pigs were roaming the streets after their enclosures or owners’ homes were destroyed. “The people had nowhere to go, so the animals didn’t either,” says Savannah. “It was really hard to see.”
Savannah, who had been active in her community as long as she can remember, wanted to help. She took stock of her resources, and inspiration hit–her family owned a piece of industrial land that had previously been a part of their water treatment business but had gone unused for years. Project Agua Pura was born!
With the help of her family, she began to transform a five-acre plot of land west of Dorado Beach info an animal refuge for pets and livestock alike, utilizing all aspects of the site to construct safe and sanitary areas for farm animals and dogs. Building materials for stables, shelters, and fencing are were almost exclusively foraged and repurposed materials salvaged from the hurricane damage.
Friends and people in the community caught wind of the project and began to bring dogs, horses, even a lone goat with no place to call home to the Bauses’ property, which soon had both indoor and outdoor areas for dogs and accommodations for horses.
The following summer, Savannah signed up for the Bali: Global Health Initiative program as a way to explore her interest in public health and expand her worldview. “Traveling solo and navigating the airports alone was nerve racking; however it was also very exciting! The outcome was phenomenal, because once I arrived at my destination, it was nothing but beautiful life-changing experiences with the best team and Mentors from GLA.”
“Having the opportunity to help the local communities and teach the children truly made me realize my passion for giving back to the community and experiencing new cultures. My GLA experience definitely provided even more spark to make this project something bigger, and to continue my volunteer efforts.”
Currently, construction is in progress on additional horse stalls. They have just taken in their third rescue horse, Max, who was found wandering in a local park.
In addition to providing a safe haven for the area’s animals, Savannah and her family plan to incorporate hydroponic and aquaponic gardening to teach the younger generations sustainable growing techniques and introduce them to a more agricultural lifestyle.
Savannah’s school has even agreed to honor community service hours for her classmates who volunteer at the project, and several have taken them up on their offer. “It really has something for everyone–those who are interested in helping animals, learning how to grow foods, or just wanting to enjoy time with the horses, goats, and dogs,” she says.
Savannah’s Advice for Teens who Want to Get Involved:
“Just get out there and do it! Don’t be afraid to take the initiative on anything; if there’s a project you want to do, or something you want to be a part of, don’t be afraid of reaching out and joining! Be a leader, and be someone in your community who gives back with kindness, compassion, and excitement.
I find that volunteering is so important to not only help build your own character, but to also help those around you, so being apart of different efforts when I can has always been something I try to achieve. And as GLA says, ‘Be The Change!’”
For those specifically interested in animal rescue, Savannah recommends contacting a local animal rescue or humane shelter to see where the greatest need is and how best you can help; oftentimes, they have volunteer options for minors or may have contacts for other volunteer opportunities.