By Piu Sur*
AAP – Alliance of Animals & People – was conceived with passion for the dignity and well being of animals in all environments. Aiming to promote a culture of harmony amongst all stakeholders, and a vision for an inclusive world of animals, humans and environmental co-existing as they are inter dependent on each others .Our mission is to sensitise people about the dignity, nature and place of animal lives in our common surroundings, thus to exert an appropriate approach and treatment to them as our allies, while at the same time removing associated risks to enable the natural co-existence of humans and animals in a mutually beneficial envionment.
This unique initiative to harmonise the relationship between humans and dogs, and other animals, comes at a time when general tolerance for our animal friends has considerably dipped. The incidences of man-animal conflictsare increasing by the day. We believe that our awareness programme will send out the message to treat animals with the kindness they deserve. Our efforts largely target the involvement of children in our programmes. We sensitise them towards animals and help them to foster empathy towards others. This will go a long way in creating a better world for animals, as these youngsters grow into compassionate citizens.
‘Sahchar’, our community project, seeks to promote an enriching co-existence between the community and animals alike, leveraging the natural attraction between them to improve the lives of both groups. Animals, especially dogs and cats, are an intrinsic part of the lives of slum children who adopt them as they share a mutual affinityand bond. Unfortunately, the largest number of dog bite and rabies cases are reported from slums and the victims are children. Whilst the issue needs serious attention, these affected areas are seldom visited by MCD for administering rabies vaccinations and to conduct animal birth control programmes.
In this background, AAP partners with NGOs working for children in need, with the following objectives
- Spread awareness on Rabies prevention and treatment, and avoid dog bites on the streets
- Sensitize children to be kind to animals; strengthen their relationship with dogs to remove fear
- Conduct surveys for data collection of animal population, cases of dog / monkey bites, and rabies
- ABC Programme–sterilization drive to stabilize the population of dogs
- Spread knowledge of Animal Protection Laws in India
- Humane treatment of animals in our midst; in many ways dogs, are our allies
- Protection, care and adoption of community dogs; First Aid knowledge for community animals
- Community mobilization to follow-up with MCD for anti-rabies vaccinations and sterilization drives
- Organize public awareness events on special days like ‘World Rabies Day’ and at AAP Annual Event
- Organise programmes with communities for collective adoption of animals
- Organise programmes with children and youth for their involvement in animal care
- Educate children in schools about rabies, Animals Protection Laws and care and adoption
- Programmes with 15 Non-Formal Education Centres has reached 1500 children and 30 teachers to share information about Rabies prevention, treatment, and prevention of dog bites. Through evening group meetings, we could educate about 50 parents as well.
- Programmes with Anganwadi Centres gave us an opportunity to share information with 36 Aganwadi workers and 250 parents, to save children (0-6 years) and pregnant women from rabies and dog bites. We demonstrate by teaching a few participatory games to the workers to show children of 3-6 years how to protect themselves from dog bites while playing with them.
- We saw an increase in social interaction among children, especially girls who are more in numbers and are proactive
- Local events such as cricket and football matches during ‘World Rabies Day’, where 1000 spectators were informed through distribution of pamphlets. In addition the ‘Children for Animals’ programmes and AAP Annual Event at Dilli Haat, Janakpuri, created awareness through a street play by children. ‘A Better World for Animals and People Together’, provided platforms for public education to more than 4000 attendees.
- Linking children with dogs through various activities has to some extent influeced them to become compassionate and caring for both animals and humans. We observed that more children and their families have adopted dogs, and children are reporting less cases of abuse against animals. These children are our country’s future citizens who would stand by Mahatma Gandhi’s statement: ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated’.
However, with a view to establish change, there is much more left to be done by way of raising these issues within the community mind and amongst other stakeholders. It is critical for us to sustain and strengthen our programmes and make them models for replication in other geographical areas in the future. We are happy to report the above achievements in spite of a major fund crunch during this period – with part salaries to coordinators and no funds for activities.
AAP requires finacial aid to continue and expand its ‘Sahchar’ project and replicate it in other slums of Delhi and the NCR (Regional Capital Region). We are looking forward to raising funds through the CSR Programmes of Corporate Houses who care for animal well being and harmonious co-existence in society, and the raising of sponsorships for other activities such as Payroll Giving Schemes, online fund raising, events, and Crowd Funding, etc.
NEW INITIATIVES DURING THIS PERIOD
- Educating Children in Non-Formal Centres (Children out of School) about rabies and prevention of dog bites. Aged 6 to 14 years, they are children of seasonal migrant workers from the States of Bihar, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. As they are constantly on the move, they never get the opportunity to attend formal school. We advise them to, upon their return to their villages, share their learnings with their communities. We also organized a few awareness meetings with their parents in the evenings upon their return from their work places.
- Educating Aganwadi Workers and Parents of Anganwadi Children about Rabies and how to prevent dog bites among young children. Anganwadi is a type of childcare centre under the Ministry of Women and Child Development, started in 1975, as part of the Integrated Child Development Services programme to combat child hunger and malnutrition. They organize preschool activities; provide health and nutrition education to families, especially pregnant women about breastfeeding, etc.; motivate families to adopt family planning; and educate parents about child development indicators.
- Post Dog-Bite Counselling: Dog-bites can be traumatic, and victims must be cared for immediately, apart from guiding them about what needs to be done next. It was observed that in the absence of such counselling, victims, their families and the community at large, are susceptible to extreme aggression towards all street animals, considering them a nuisance.
• Promoting Vegan Culture in the Community – Sharing information about well-planned vegan diets for healthy living and preventing cruelty to animals.
CONCERN: RAISING FUNDS FOR ANIMAL WELFARE IN INDIA
During the shortage of funds due to delayed approval of our application, we tried our best to raise local funds from Government Institutes, the Corporate Sector, and Indian Trusts but sadly learnt that neither do Govt. departments have sufficient funds for urban animals like dogs, nor do Corporates Houses under their CSR policy. Thus, we were unable to employ a dedicated fund raiser for our programmes.
*Author is a Media Consultant/Media Educator/Educational Documentary filmmaker/Instructional Designer
Presently she is working independently as a consultant but has worked in the field of television production and later on the new media besides being guest faculty to share her experiences.