I’ve decided: Sundays will be Yayasan day. A Yayasan (lovely word) is a Government-approved Foundation that has jumped through many bureaucratic hoops in order to be permitted to raise funds. Moneys raised are subject to checks and balances to ensure proper distribution. So rule number one: in Indonesia money should only be donated to an organisation that can demonstrate Yayasan status. They receive no government funding, just the right to raise their own revenue. So Sunday posts will profile a different Yayasan each week. I’m not likely to run out of content.
Villa Kitty and I share a birthday (St Patrick’s Day, since you ask). Born in 2011, VK is considerably younger than me, and the birthday is just a happy coincidence. We were staying in Ubud when VK was marking their first anniversary with a fundraiser. Sounded like a plan so we shared celebrations. And have been supporting the cat-and-kitten cause in small ways ever since.
World Cat Day was celebrated in many countries in Europe last week (February 17). I didn’t realise this as I was drafting this post, and that’s another happy coincidence.
Much as we love Balinese culture and people, there is a disturbing aspect that foreigners cannot get their heads around. Not all, by any means, but many people have a disregard for animal welfare. Often there’s too much going on in their lives struggling to make a living, but even so it does not justify the litters of puppies and kittens that are dumped during the breeding season. Dumped in rubbish bins, by the side of the road or in the rice fields. Female exotic dogs are bred to exhaustion, and then dumped. The dog meat industry is barely below the surface. The government carries out cruel and indiscriminate culls. Animals are not routinely sterilised even though there is a free home service for local cats and dogs. Exotic pets are seen as status symbols, but are diluting the gene pool of the superb Bali dog. This is the ugly side of the Island of the Gods and it will be a long time before things change.
Fortunately there are also many Balinese people who are animal lovers. The caring young staff and vets at Sunset Vet are all Indonesian. Villa Kitty employs staff from Lotunduh village. Their children come after school to cuddle and play, and will grow up with compassionate hearts. Animal welfare organisations are working with other children to educate and this is where positive effects will be seen in years to come.
A few, only a few, of the dumped animals are brought to one of the several dog charities, or to Elizabeth at Villa Kitty, the only cat refuge on Bali. She has dogs too, even though VK is over capacity with their primary purpose of cats and kittens.
Every day brings heartbreak as attempts to save the sick ones fail, and they must be gently put to sleep.
When I contact Elizabeth about this post early in the week she is clearly exhausted.
In January, 102 new arrivals added to the number of those already in care. As of last week another 43 had already been brought in February. Some of the kittens are so tiny that they have no hope of survival without their mother. At least they will know a little love in their far-too-short lives.
Elizabeth is a resilient woman and I know she will bounce back but I’ve caught her at a difficult time:
‘I am sick of the cruelty. I am sick of the heartache of watching babies die. Slowly.
What do we do? Keep them alive for two weeks?
Watch healthy kittens get sick because they just want their mothers. We are no substitute for their mothers.
I can hear babies crying as I write this.’
Elizabeth is one in a million, but she can’t do it alone. Running a yayasan, managing facilities and staff, finding the money to keep everything on track each month and experiencing heartbreak every day must eventually take a toll.
So much is needed: foster carers for the little ones to give them a chance away from infectious diseases. Donations to help with the day-to-day running of Villa Kitty or with the huge monthly wages and vet bills. Visitors to sit and cuddle the cats and kittens to socialise them. Ask what vet supplies are needed and bring some with you if you can.
Compassion fatigue is real. Sometimes it all seems too hard with so many needy causes. Doing nothing the easy option. But if we each choose our battles and support how and when we can, even small acts, and small donations, add up to make the difference that is needed.
If a battle you choose is Villa Kitty, take a look at the donation link on the web page or follow them on Facebook. If you are on holiday in Bali, add a visit to your itinerary. Elizabeth, Villa Kitty staff, the cats and kittens will welcome you.
We caught up with Elizabeth last night and already she has summoned her resilience and is ready to face another week, not knowing what lies ahead. The cats and kittens that find their way to Villa Kitty are being sheltered, fed and loved.
Jalan Ambarwati No. 320
Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar