Former Intern Shares Perks of Experience Including Animal Care, Self-Discovery, and Teamwork

January 25, 2023

Former interns Andrea Makandreou and Liz Borrie (second and third from left) pose with Green Chimneys Farm & Wildlife Director Michael Kaufmann, Farm Program Manager Maureen Doherty, and Education Program Manager Miyako Kinoshita, Fall 2022.

People come to Green Chimneys to intern from as near as Brewster, New York, and as far as Japan. What do these individuals have in common? They seek opportunities to grow personally and professionally. They apply to the Henry J. and Erna D. Leir Global Internship Program in search of avenues to expand animal care or gardening skills in a therapeutic day school and residential treatment setting. They participate in the program expecting to identify the next steps in their careers. And for many, they not only hone in on the next steps but also develop friendships that accompany them on their journeys well beyond their days at Green Chimneys.

Such is the case for former Leir Intern Andrea Makandreou from Vienna, Austria. She recently shared the following as a reflection on her internship in 2012:

Green Chimneys had a huge impact on me. I love that Green Chimneys is this little village that was founded all those years ago—a place where everybody has the same goal and is so dedicated to help children grow, to overcome all different kinds of social, emotional, or learning challenges. It is a very holistic approach, and that is what makes it so unique and special. Even though we interns were there for the summer session, we were part of this incredible team. We were part of meetings; we were encouraged to talk to members of other professions and to try out different approaches at the farm to help the children we were working with. Besides working with the children and participating in classes, I also gained experience in many different forms of animal care. I learned to train llamas and give baths to a bearded dragon, which I enjoyed a lot. I overcame my fear of stepping down from ladders and put my hand in a terrarium with a tarantula. I tube-fed orphaned possums, was in a photo shoot with camels, and even fed a hawk and a snake.

Time with my fellow interns was memorable, too. Teamwork was particularly important on the day when the washing machine broke in our house. Then there was the time we baked cookies and celebrated Christmas in July. When you start an internship at The Sam and Myra Ross Institute, you will be surprised at what you learn about yourself. You will grow in ways you probably never have thought of if you dare to dive into the Green Chimneys spirit. I am very grateful for the time I was able to spend there.

I finished my thesis in nursing science during my internship and graduated a month after my return home to Vienna, Austria. Five months later, I completed a graduate degree in animal-assisted therapy. Today, I am pursuing a career in medicine, and though it’s a challenging time for the field, I continue to rely on my connections to the natural world. I usually try to spend as much time as possible outdoors with my dog Jack. We go hiking a lot. Being outside in nature, breathing in the fresh air, and feeling the connection to mother earth is the best way for me to re-energize.

A career in medicine with personal practices rooted in nature and friendship.

Today, Andrea resides in Vienna, Austria with her Border Collie, Jack. Since interning at Green Chimneys, Andrea has completed a graduate degree in animal-assisted therapy and currently works in a medical office. She is also studying at the Medical University of Vienna to become a general practitioner and remains in contact with Green Chimneys staff and former interns. In the fall of 2022, Andrea returned to Green Chimneys to visit many of the people and animals who she regards as influential on her career. She also caught up with fellow former intern Akane Yamamoto (left) in New York City.

Forever tied to our former interns, it’s an honor to be a part of their career pursuits and individual journeys.

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