Back Row – From left to right: Lesley Gaigher, Lawrence Khodobo, Yolanda Cronje
Middle Row – From left to right: Tamrin Veldsman, Alicia Thomas, Andel Greyling, Letitia Weyers, Rita Whiteley, Chantel de Troch, Sigrid Jefferies, Tunelle van der Merwe, Linké Viljoen
Front Row – From left to right: Dr Bridget Edmonds, Patrick Mutandari, Marvelique van der Merwe, Dr Cara Andreasen
Written by Alicia Thomas, Committee Member – SPCA Louis Trichardt
Each one of us has a purpose in life, fuelled by whatever passion is instilled in our being. Sadly, many never find their passion or purpose; life takes its course and just sweeps us along the path of the normal day-to-day rat race and existence.
I believe your true passion and purpose keeps you up at night and gnaws away at you, to the point where it will either drive you crazy or drive you into the right direction, so that you can fulfil your purpose – the reason why you are on this earth! I consider myself lucky to have found mine.
The need to do more
As the saying goes: “Stop just feeling sorry for animals; rather start doing something about it”. I’ve always known that I have a very strong love and passion for animals, yet I had this niggling feeling inside of me that I needed to do more.
If you even have an inkling of that feeling, don’t waste any time and don’t think “someone else” is going to do it. If it stirs your heart, GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! People will support positive change and YOU can be that change you want to see, no matter where you are, no matter what your circumstances, no matter how small you think your contribution can be.
In May of 2015 I knocked on our local SPCA’s door, not really knowing what my plan was, but I was there to help in any way I could…
The start of something great
I attended the 2015 AGM where eight of us sat around a table – five committee members, the SPCA Inspector, my friend and me. I remember going through the financial statements and thinking to myself: how was it possible that their doors had not closed yet? That night I vowed that things were about to change.
I offered to start up a Facebook page, knowing what a difference social media could make, especially for creating some positive awareness in a small town’s close-knit community.
So, the next day our SPCA Louis Trichardt’s Facebook Page was born. In no time people started paying attention and noticing. A supporting community is one that sees that there are things happening and that there is action being taken.
How fortunate we are to have a driven, dynamic and versatile team at our SPCA, fuelled by one thing alone: our deep and endearing love for animals!
Volunteering or working at any animal shelter or welfare organisation is not a road you want to travel alone; no one can keep up the emotional rollercoaster ride of extreme highs and lows without a support system. Surround yourself with like-minded and compassionate people who will be in it for the long haul.
Our incredible passion has brought us together and we are now a supportive team with diverse strengths that complement each other in every way. Nothing is ever impossible and if you’re reading this thinking that you cannot make a difference, think again.
As Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of dedicated citizens can’t change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Making a difference
We knew that if we wanted to make a difference in the lives of animals in need, we would have to make a difference in our financial position.
Together we came up with plans and strategies. Fundraising ideas were born and we grabbed each and every opportunity to create positive awareness for Louis Trichardt SPCA and to gain the support of our community. And support us they did.
From our first hugely successful fundraising auction and amazing golf day, talks on our local radio stations, and schools visits, to sharing of success stories and adoptions on our Facebook page – we are proud of all the changes. We’ve also launched new campaigns and merchandise to sell at stalls and markets.
And, of course, our Saturday weekly “Wag ‘n Purrs”, where people can come in and spend quality time with our animals, take the dogs for a walk, bring the cats some treats and just give them some love and attention.
We also hosted our very first, hugely successful Mutt Mile this year where humans could come and strut their mutts for a mile or they could run/walk for 5 kilometres. It was like a small spark had ignited a huge fire and it was spreading, warming the hearts of everyone it touched and, more incredibly, making a difference in the lives of our animals!
Onwards and upwards
A year later, we attended the 2016 AGM; we looked around the room and saw the 60 new members that had joined. I stood beside our newly elected committee members and what an incredible feeling it was to see the turnaround in our financial position. We still have a long way to go, but already we’ve been able to help so many animals in need.
We might be a small-town SPCA but we have big dreams, and as Sir Richard Branson said, “If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough” – and, believe me, our dreams are sometimes terrifying.
I know that many SPCAs out there today often have to take negative backlashes from the public. But we stand here, two-and-a-half years later, and want to urge people: before you comment, post or mouth anything negative about any shelter, SPCA or other organisation trying to make a difference, take a step back and make 100% sure you have your facts straight.
Go and volunteer for one week; see the cruelty and sadness we see on a daily basis, which no animal lover should ever see. Feel the emotions we feel and experience the strong bonds we form with the animals in our care. I promise you that your perspective will be changed forever.
Preventing cruelty to animals
Rehoming stray, abused or unwanted animals is only part of what SPCAs do. SPCA stands for Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, not only domestic animals, but ANY animal.
This broadens the spectrum of what we do on a daily basis and entails so much more than rehoming animals. The truth remains that the animals in our care are safe, warm and have a full belly. The real cruelty and sadness is out there and that is, and will always remain, one of our main focuses.
An ideal world
In a perfect world, every dog or cat would be part of a family that would take care of them in good times and bad, make sure they receive medical treatment when needed, and love them for the rest of their lives – not just until it suits the owner, or they decide to up and move and the family pets just can’t go along. Although things do happen beyond our control, your life’s decisions should be made considering your pets – you chose to have them, after all. They are your family, your commitment, your responsibility.
But our world is far from perfect.
Until people stop supporting backyard breeders, puppy mills, unscrupulous pet shops and “free to good home” adverts, shelters will always be full. The harsh reality is that most of those unwanted animals that end up in a shelter, due to no fault of their own, will most probably never walk out of there again.
So, please, before you consider getting yourself a new kitten or puppy this year, make sure you are ready for that commitment, not just financially, but for the rest of that animal’s life.
Keep your eye on the goal
We have set goals for ourselves each year and 2017 was no exception. It was a year that we are incredibly proud to say that we not only reached two of our major goals; we turned dreams into reality!
Our very first goal was to build a new cattery as our current cattery was in dire need of not just an upgrade, but to be completely rebuilt. The plan was to start the cattery fund and we allocated portions of our fundraisers specifically to this. But, as anyone who has ever been involved in the financial planning of a shelter knows, it just never works that way. There is always some expense that creeps up on you from behind and takes priority.
Yet again, our community stepped in, and what seemed like a five-year goal became a reality within six months!
Our second goal was to reach more animals in need, find the real cruelty out there and help the ones that needed us the most. We had to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.
Without the much-needed funding, it seemed like an unfathomable task. But we set out a plan to put aside one afternoon a week to visit local villages. During these visits, we would vaccinate and deworm as many village animals as possible – as many as our funding would allow.
Then one day fate stepped in and our paths crossed with that of Dr Bridget Edmonds, the current State Veterinarian for Makhado. After realising we had similar goals and what we could do together, we joined forces and spent 36 weeks in surrounding villages, searching for cruelty once a week, vaccinating, deworming, treating injuries and illness, and handing out food parcels, as many as we could, as often as we could.
But wait, there’s more
We were also able to run with numerous sterilisation drives, in particular a major one in Sinthumule, one of the biggest villages in our surrounding area. This would not have been possible without the assistance of Dr Edmonds and other State Vets from our surrounding areas.
New ideas and campaigns were born from our time spent in the villages as well. During our outreaches we come across dogs with horrible chains around their necks and our goal is to break those chains and replace them with proper and comfortable collars. We started a campaign called “Break the Chains”. We urged people to donate old or new collars and the donations came flooding in, even from as far away as Germany!
We know this is only the start and that there’s so much more to come, so much more that HAS to be done for these animals in need.
We are forever grateful for the year that has been and we are extremely excited for what the future may have in store for our SPCA and for our animals.
Take a leap of faith
Many people say to us “I don’t know how you do it”. But the truth is, once you make a start and see what a difference the smallest kind gesture can make to an animal in need, there is no way that you will ever be able to walk away.
So I urge those who feel the pressing need to do more, don’t stay away just because you think your heart won’t be able to handle it. Believe me, once you’ve experienced what a difference you can make to an animal’s life, you will be asking yourself why you didn't start doing it years ago.
We urge anyone to take that leap of faith, be the voice for the voiceless and be the change you want to see in this world!
We leave you with this thought from The Animals’ Saviour by Jim Willis:
I looked at all the caged animals in the shelter... the cast-offs of human society.
I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal.
And I was angry.
“God,” I said, “this is terrible! Why don’t you do something?”
God was silent for a moment and then He spoke softly.
“I have done something,” He replied.
“I created you.”
Watch their inspiring video here: https://vimeo.com/247000950?ref=fb-share&1