Stasya Briggs moved to Mexico in 2010, still reeling from a family tragedy she was in search of her own little slice of paradise. When she stumbled upon Barra de Potosi she knew immediately she was home. It was a far cry from her original place of origin, the USSR . If you ever met her you’ll know that Stasya is half Russian, half Ukrainian and all love. It wasn’t long into her new adventure before she noticed a dire need within this kind hearted community she had found.
All around her cats and dogs appeared to be starving. They were diseased and dying in the streets and on the beautiful beach right before her eyes. Her heart broke for these forgotten creatures and Stasya is not one to stand by and watch any injustice occur; no matter how big or small, no matter if it’s friend or foe, and no matter whether it's human or animal. When she had the horrific realization that one of the most common population control methods for strays in the area is poisoning them, she vowed to do everything within her power to help, and she sure did.
Right away she began by walking door to door, desperate to rally support and find a solution, visiting the ranchos and small casitas that covered the rural town. Wisely aware that these circumstances are a reflection of a lack of education and resources, not care, she soon saw that this was one of the poorest parts of Mexico. She knew how essential it would be to involve the locals, to work together with the community, and to provide opportunities and advantages to ultimately to create a more beautiful place for everyone to exist.
Instead of serving as just a bandaid for this brutal reality, scooping up and saving ten tick ridden puppies and kittens only to return to the same place a day later and find twenty more, Staysa knew she must address the root of the problem. Cue the largest spay and neuter effort this region has ever seen! Over the years Amigos de Animales has sterilized over 7,000 dogs and cats and counting.
As soon as she could manage to scrape together enough pesos, there was a clinic, whether it was once a week or once a month, she made it happen time and time again. Children from the village flocked to assist the amazing vets and nurses who graciously were donating their time, skills, and equipment at a lower cost. The team made it as easy as possible for any residents to come and get their animals sterilized by providing transportation, crates, even a safe place for them to recover, as well as accepting any means someone has available to them at all for the service, even coconuts or ice.
All through the long days of seemingly endless effort on behalf of these helpless creatures, right beside Stasya was her life partner Mike. Disabled and barely able to walk, he overcame everything to take up the worthy cause of Amigos de Animales just the same. Together these two incredible humans worked tirelessly to change the village for the better, never stopping for a second to worry about themselves.
The area they were able to help slowly expanded from the tiny town of Barra, extending out to Achotes and Playa Blanca, moving further to the airport, and eventually all the way to Zihuatanejo. While the change between when they first arrived slowly began to seem worlds apart, they carried on, hoping one day to have every single living creature in Barra and beyond alive, sterilized, and loved.
To further fuel their pure hearted purpose, Amigos opened their very own animal sanctuary. It functions mainly as a last hope home, a refuge for any living thing that has been mistreated or neglected. Today there are around 200 animals living at the shelter. Cute little critters that were found at death’s door, that no one else wanted to love, that needed a place to go where they could have one last chance at a good life.
Could you look a puppy taking its last breaths in the eyes and leave it on the side of the street to starve because there is no more room inside the already at capacity pens? Well neither can Amigos! Luckily, Stasya doesn’t have to do it all alone! Amigos also has the ever dedicated Gris managing the everyday efforts on-site. Her and her whole family have given everything they have to keep this noble fight going. Volunteers travel from all over the world just to come and make a difference for the abused and mistreated cats and dogs of this little corner of Guerrero.
Everyday Stasya and her incredible team of Volunteers , Animal Angels, are pushed to their limit. The things they’ve had to see and experience would crack even the coldest heart. Working countless hours in the sweltering sun, covered in dirt, and ticks, and fleas, just to give all their furry friends as much love and care as possible. To try and find them new homes that will treat them like the sweet and sacred souls that they are.
It’s also essential to note that Amigos functions strictly as a non profit project, relying entirely on donations, on the generosity of all the amazing adopters and fellow animal advocates. One hundred percent of every dollar donated goes directly to covering expenses for rescued animals including food, vet care, medication, spay and neuter clinics, and educational outreach.
Stasya has given up everything for this project. All of her time, all of her money, and she would do it all over again in a second. No wonder amazing people from all over the world are drawn to Barra de Potosi Mexico, saving lives today and changing the future for animals and people in Mexico all together.
By Caitlin Mason, the first Head Volunteer of the Amigos de Animales Volunteers Team.