encouraging community-based animal welfare work

After about a year of publicising the animal work we have going on in our estate of Ubi, we have come to learn more than a few things:

There are other geographically-managed cat welfare groups like us, such as NUS Cat Cafe <3.This methodology of animal welfare is what I coin as kampung-style, and it is really effective. Each community, like a cell, (think terrorist groups and churches), is able to function more effectively on the ground through autonomous management. Instead of having to conform to one large umbrella organisation, it is far better to link up with these groups than to try and grab and control them all.

Linking up is quite key. We can learn from other groups, like they can learn from us, and help one another out. The following correspondences exemplify this thought:

From Roz, an ex-cat-patron of the Maxwell Road area

Hi Elaine,

My name is Roz and I came across your blog while surfing for info on stray cats trappings. Really enjoyed reading your informative blog and am quite impressed with you and your friends’ systematic efforts in managing the TNRM in the Ubi area…I used to work in Maxwell Road area and feed a colony of strays there.. I left my job there and another lady took over the feeding. She is seeking help to trap one of very sick stray there. She tried a few times but failed and according to her, the cat is in a particularly bad condition…

My reply

Hi Roz. I am linking you up with Veron of CWS to see if she can connect you with someone who can help this poor sick kitty. You can also call Damy at 93390481 he is a very reliable and animal-loving cat trapper who will transport the cat to and from the vet…

From Veron of Cat Welfare Society

Hi Roz, yes Damy is your best bet as he is very experienced in trapping…I am also linking you up with Zarina who has been conducting TNRM activity around the Telok Ayer region. Always good to know people around the same area who does TNRM so that you can offer each other support or information if required…

From Zarina who is managing the Telok Ayer community with other volunteers

Hi Roz,

A few caregivers and myself have actually been sterilising the cats in the Maxwell area since April 2009… take care of the cats in the Maxwell and surrounding areas. The cats in the surrounding areas have already been sterilised 4-5 years ago, and the Maxwell ones we did in April-July this year…The caregivers including myself have a system there and we take turns with the caregiving of these cats…

And this is just one link-up story, there are many others. Linking up as the way to go is also true for adoption opportunities, where it is better for the rescuer or fosterer to be the one to liaise with the potential adopters, thus enabling the rescuers to do more for each animal, rather than umbrella them all in one boarding space – causing overcrowding, lack of care, euthanasia to control population – or to try and manage all the contacts as a third-party. Which is also why we only advertise our adoptees on websites that allow the potential adopters to contact us directly.

Having reflected on all this, we would really like to enforce the message that community-based animal welfare groups are a really effective way to make a difference in your community.

If you hail from another estate than Ubi, and would like to do something similar, like another (Your Estate) Kuching Project, here are some pointers on how to start out:

  • Connect with the all feeders in your community. This means going to talk to them when they are feeding. Find out where they feed, who, when, and if they are also sterilising stray cats. (A common interest in cats will bind you, and it is good to be polite of course, offering help where you can, to connect with the carers. Some cat people may be unknowingly obnoxious or rude, which matches the perceived body language of cats! This makes the connecting work even more important. Many cat carers prefer to work alone simply because they cannot get along with other ‘crazy cat people’, causing overlaps and loopholes. Bring along an auntie-minded neighbour when you go talk to the carers, it will help you connect better.)
  • Create a simple map like ours, visual or otherwise. This is to suss out any overlays in feeding and sterilisation, and in which part of the community where there are needs that are not met. You may not be able to meet the needs immediately but identifying this will be a start. Get the contact numbers of the carers and coordinate with all of them, sharing information about feeding/sterilisation needs, new cats in the community, etc. This will also minimise wastage of resources in terms of feeding and sterilisation overlays.
  • Canvass for help in identified areas of need. This could be in terms of finding sponsors for sterilisation, finding volunteers for trapping or feeding, finding fosterers to care for cats that need rehabilitation or for kittens that are orphaned. Depending on the need, you will need to act differently. For example, if your need is for volunteers, then looking into your community will be the best idea. We started out by hanging out at our neighbourhood pet shop. The internet will be useful only as far as internet-savvy volunteers are online, but many volunteers are senior citizens that may not have internet access.

And that is a simple outline on how you can create a collaborative community-based cat welfare group in your neighbourhood. I do hope that this will encourage our readers to do the same. If you have any questions or suggestions, or need help or simply a sounding board for setting up an Estate Kuching Project in your community, please feel free to contact us.

Our country suffers from a violent lack of volunteerism (a mere 14% in 2004, falling far behind in developed nations worldwide). The key to successful volunteer efforts is first and foremost, interest and passion. Any work done grudgingly is not sustainable nor effective, no matter how dire the need may be. Joy in your work gives you strength for it!

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