Above: Greenheart Travel Volunteer Mallory Bakutis helps spread awareness of the rescue center and the ethical treatment and care of stray dogs in Hua Hin
Although we love and care for domesticated animals as pets in the US, not all countries share the same feelings about dogs & cats. In many countries, animals are not kept inside homes or are not cared for as pets. They are left outside, and perhaps not even fed or fixed. With packs of stray animals roaming around in places like Thailand, dogs & cats prove to be more of a public nuisance than a source of joy.
At Greenheart Travel’s volunteer project in Thailand, we are focused on helping to prioritize, stabilize and sterilize the stray dog population. And we’ve seen great impact on the health of the stray dog population due to this work. But there are many key stakeholders involved in the long-term success of a project like this – namely, the local community. By getting community involvement and buy-in, we have found there is a much greater chance of success and long-term change.
We see the value in educating the community about how to care for stray animals, both as a way to have healthier and more ethical treatment of the animals, but also as a way to stabilize the population of dogs that currently exists.
Last month, our local staff & volunteers sponsored an educational forum at a village near Hua Hin. It focused on educating adults & families about ethical animal care. The talk featured the project’s in-house vet, Dr. Aey, who talked about pet care, preventing illnesses and how this project aims to bring order to the growing number of stray dogs by means of sterilization.
During the meeting, the volunteers also conducted a survey of the current state of street and private dogs in the village. Attendees shared information about where stray dogs lives in the community or families who had dogs living on their property. Volunteers went from house to house to administer vaccines, create pet certificates for each privately owned dog and tended to wounded or sick dogs on the streets. This went on all day because there were so many families interested in participating!
All in all, the forum was a huge success, with nearly 100 dogs impacted, and the staff already has plans to replicate this model for other villages in the months to come. Volunteers, such as Mallory Bakutis (seen above) come away from this volunteer work feeling connected to the community, while also feeling proud of the deep impact they can have in small towns around Hua Hin:
“I have learned so much this month from all the amazing people (like Hanli, Ghet, Dr Aey, Jaco) and dogs! This project is such an inspiration! Every single one of the staff work with such patience and determination, and it’s been amazing watching them in action. It’s also such a privilege to learn from them. I have learned a lot about myself and how far I can push myself, and also about the Thai people & community. And of course, the dogs. All the doggies – my endless love and I hope they all find loving, forever homes. Keep doing what you’re doing! This is an amazing place and will always be in my heart! I cannot thank you enough for everything! THANK YOU! — Mallory
The project also brings young school children to rescue center on a regular basis in order to educate children about basic veterinary practices and animal health. They teach kids that it’s not ok to kick animals, and if you see abandoned puppies or abused animals, to call the center for help. By focusing on young children, we are planting the seeds for long-term change in human behavior towards animals. And in some cases, Thai families even adopt animals from the center!
Because Greenheart Travel builds partnerships, like this one, with small non-profits around the world, our volunteers are able to make noticeable, small-scale impact even within a few weeks abroad. One project where this is especially true is in Thailand, which is why Greenheart Travel is committed to helping the project grow in the future. At the end of 2015, Greenheart Travel made a donation to the project to double the capacity of their rescue efforts, while also expanding the adoption zone.
Stay tuned for progress updates on this exciting initiative!