CFCA stories

Sponsored elder cares for abandoned animals

October 1, 2012

It is mid-morning, and Gregorio, a sponsored aging friend in Cuernavaca, Mexico, slowly walks around the perimeter of his small home to water his plants and flowers.

Gregorio, a sponsored aging friend in Mexico,
is a caretaker for sick and abandoned animals.

Outside in the middle of his property, two metal cages hang from a tree and hold a number of pigeons and parakeets. Two hens cluck at each other and bob their heads as they strut past several dogs chasing one another.

Gregorio loves animals, and they have been part of his life since he was young. He finds sick or abandoned animals and brings them home to nurse them back to health.

Gregorio has cared for more than 60 animals in his lifetime.

"I've had 24 birds, 12 cats, six turtles and four dogs," Gregorio said. "At one point I had to stop adopting animals because there were too many and I had time for nothing else."

Gregorio's commitment to caring for the well-being of animals is important to him.

"My mom and my dad always told me to be good with people and animals," he said. "I remember crying over three newborn kittens I found abandoned in a soccer field. I decided to help them and see them grow."

Local CFCA staffers encourage sponsored aging friends to develop their talents and interests. The Cuernavaca project seeks to improve self-worth among sponsored aging friends and improve community relationships.

Lean on me

Through the Hope for a Family sponsorship program, Gregorio meets people and makes friends. He is able to socialize during CFCA celebrations and during weekly meetings with other sponsored aging friends.

Through these weekly meetings, the elderly can enjoy the company of others. Many of them lack supportive relationships, but interactions with CFCA staff members and one another, along with letters from sponsors, can help them build new friendships and increase their self-esteem.

"I enjoy how I interact with other sponsored elderly. ... I just love when we celebrate a birthday and they ask me to sing the 'Mañanitas' (a traditional Mexican song)," Gregorio said.

"I think the birds [enjoy my music] because when I
start singing or playing the guitar, they start
whistling at me," Gregorio said.

CFCA promotes education among the sponsored elderly and children alike. The CFCA sponsorship program offers benefits such as workshops where the sponsored aging can create various handicrafts and develop their skills and interests. These workshops help to promote creativity, self-esteem, sharing, friendship, and in some cases, income generation.

Animal's best friend

Pets can have positive health benefits for the elderly, who often deal with loneliness.

"I believe [taking care of animals] has helped me to feel and be healthy," Gregorio said.

Caring for pets can offer therapeutic benefits for individuals, says Susan Miller, chief executive officer of Rose Brooks Center, which provides domestic violence services and programs for families in the United States. The Rose Brooks Center recently constructed a pet facility for families staying at the shelter.

"We have had programs in the past that use a pet-human bond to assist in therapy. … [A pet's] presence lessens stress," Miller said.

Gregorio fondly remembers how he felt when one of his most cherished friends, Alaska the dog, was still with him.

"I enjoyed his company so much," he said. "He was with me in my ups and downs; he was strong and obedient. [Alaska] was my partner until he passed away."

Gregorio's kind and caring nature is evident in his love for all animals, no matter how small.

"I am not sure, but it comes from my heart," Gregorio said. "I feel so much compassion for [people and animals]."

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