Saturday, June 29, 2013

The blue moon: a place for those in need (part II)

The clinic is actually a gallery. Monica is a painter and her husband is a stone carver. Yet now, the operating theatre is in the gallery and the workshop serves as office and working room. Everywhere, handicrafts of the two artists are deployed, hung up and I literally step on them: even the floor’s tiles are inscribed and painted with saws in different languages. However, there’s hardly any time left for art, whereas animals get operated here inside and – what is known all over Hurghada – street animals get castrated for free. For many years, Monica has been the driving force to stop poisoning the wild cats and dogs and instead to have them castrated for free. HEPCA and other animal protection advocates supported her.

From home and workshop to an animal shelter
How did all begin?
“There was a cat meowing in front of our front door.” Her husband took her inside, they nursed her and one day she disappeared. “Thereby, we never ever had any business with animals!” Soon after that, her husband turned up with two budgies in a basket. Hence, they built an aviary on their workshop’s veranda. Since birds don’t like to live alone according to the information from internet – this is where she got her knowledge initially – they bought three more birds. While buying fodder in Cairo, they acquired a cat, since the other one had run away. The “street matador” made sure to produce some offspring and soon, Monica and her husband found themselves in the middle of a flock of kitten. They ought to be castrated and hence, they went to see a veterinary. Yet he killed them while castrating them. As compensation, they wanted a dog. However, he brought two friends along with him and so they also had become castrated. The result of the castration was the same as with the cats.

“It is unbelievable, they cannot even castrate an animal!” the initiative lady revolted and realized the need. She contacted the Susy Utzinger Foundation and explained the situation. Without ever having been in an animal shelter and without any previous knowledge, Monica let herself become trained in the work with animals and how to nurse and treat them, including assisting at operations. The Foundation procured veterinaries to come to Hurghada and show local doctors how to castrate animals.

Her home became animal shelter until her neighbours started to complain. Understandable since 12 dogs outdoors and 30 cats indoors were too many, apart from the dirt that this number of animals produced in their residential property. Yet before the government could evacuate the place, Monica and her husband brought the animals elsewhere. They rented premises for the animals and applied for the lease of agricultural land.

The application was refused several times. Eventually, a new governor was appointed and Monica clearly articulated her cause: 10’000 sq.m. of agricultural land was the minimum. Her husband swallowed hard, but the governor considered her project worth supporting and agreed for 10’000 sq.m. And if she wanted more land, she could get it. That was 12 years ago. Her bright grey eyes sparkle of pride: “And now, we have 53’000 sq.m.!”.

Balloon und car for construction material
In order to be able to buy construction material for the animal centre, she sold her balloons. Monica had her own airline company and was the first women who offered commercial balloon trips in Egypt, precisely here in Hurghada. The material for the roofs was financed by selling her car. Her life insurance was liquidated and the revenues from an apartment house are also injected in the construction and maintenance of the shelter. Whenever she wanted to give up, Susy Utzinger encouraged her not to give up.

Who are the residents?
“All those who can live in the street, should live there; but castrated.” In case the animals are injured, they can be brought for care. They get registered, numbered and castrated. As soon as they can survive alone, they have to go back to the street. For those who are not able to live independently, a place with an animal lover is searched for. A small fee is being charged for the placement which however does not fully cover costs for medicine, fodder, maintenance and work. The pensionaries are an exception from this. Dog and cat owners, who temporarily leave Hurghada, can bring their animals and pick them up again after their return. This fee covers all costs. Yet, there is one single stipulation: the animals must be castrated. Monica is of the opinion that there are already more than enough wild and domesticized respectively left animals living in and around Hurghada and there is no need to breed any more of them.

Quotations from Monica
“Approximately 50‘000 foreigners live in Hurghada; if only 1 % of them would be committed to our work, it would be very helpful for us.”
“I can only help when somebody helps me.”
“In my opinion, an animal is rescued when it has got a place to stay – not when it is shunt.”
“There is a huge pressure on me from people who collect animals and bring them here out of a misunderstood care for animals, although somewhere out there, there is still a mother that can feed their kitten on her own. This is neither helpful for the kitten nor for the mother and I don’t have enough space for all of them.”
“I had to learn that not all animals can be tended; sometimes it is better to let go and to put them to sleep.”

Who is this strong woman?
She was born in Biel (Switzerland), moved to Gstaad in Berner Oberland when she was 15; in 1997 she and a friend travelled across Egypt by car, doing balloon trips. A friend convinced her to establish a business here in Hurghada: she launched her balloon company. Due to problems with the licence - a typical Egyptian problem: her papers were ok but the authorities wanted to "generate" more income - she gave it up later on; she met her husband Salah, a sculptor, and together they opened a gallery. And then, the first cat appeared…

Wishes and goals
Asked about her wishes, Monica answers without any hesitation: „I’m perfectly happy.” She made many interesting experiences in her live. She hopes for a bit more of understanding from the people in Hurghada for her animal centre. Since she still has many ideas and plans: she wants to be a self-supporter with her own nursery, with own electricity and water. The centre should be open for schools and do lectures in schools so that children may learn more about animals. It should become a therapy place for disabled people as well as educational centre for saddlers, carpenters, turners and cheese makers. This knowledge would be further spread to the villages of the trainees. Monica names arts workshops… bungalows for medical workshops… a clinic for large and small animals… All this will be possible to realize if she can sell her house in Switzerland for a reasonable price. The centre should become self-sustained. “Then, I don’t need to ask anybody for support anymore, because I struggle with asking for help.” She hopes that she can realize all her ideas in spite of the revolution and all the obstacles.

I wish so, too. I’m stunned from the stubborn will and determination of this woman. Even now, while listening to the interview and typing her statements into legible words into my computer, I feel respect and esteem about her commitment. This is exactly what led me to write this coverage. I appeal to all readers to spread it and to support Monica and her commitment.

How to help?
  • on occasion of the markets with cake donations: the receipts go to the animal centre
  • donations for the flea market and tombola
  • donations of material (accessories for animals, bandaging material, fodder)
  • mentor for an air journey (transportation of donations from Europe to Hurghada or accompanying animals from Hurghada to Europe)
  • participate in any market
  • participate in the volunteers’ day
  • tell everybody about the animal centre
  • donate money
  • as a guest in a hotel or as a resident: catch the roaming cats or dogs and bring them for castration
  • everybody to his abilities

By the way, dog Dali, who was bitten, is Salah’s own dog. He’s fine again. The bladder was not injured; he staled again the next day. Some muscles were perforated by the bites which is painful; the small injury beside the eye is healed.

1 comment:

  1. Monica is an inspiration to all animal lovers. So much needs to be done in educating the people in Hurghada. I am sure she will succeed because she has determination. My daughter and I will be helping out on volunteer days when we are over for our holidays. Blue Moon is such a good cause more people should come along and help. It is just a couple of hours and it helps the animals.


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