In this week’s blog we talk about the passions behind Rescuemania as well as our ambitions for this year and beyond… even if we are a bit late to the party.
If there’s one thing I realised when I turned 40 and accepted I was well and truly an adult (no takesy backsy) it was that life, even if good, can sometimes be hard. Harder for some than others of course, but it is generally enough trying to manage the day-to-day toll of work, home, family, friends, cleaning, shopping, etc, so that it already seems like there are not enough hours before you can even contemplate adding in anything else. People who do seem like Super Heroes in comparison.
In 2017, I was on a flight to escort some dogs from Europe to a sanctuary in the UK and I was trying to think up some great ways to fundraise for the charity. Nothing was coming to me. Then I saw an interview in the inflight magazine with a wrestler, documenting his travel for the next 365 days of wrestling matches. ‘Maybe we could change Wrestlemania to Rescuemania and put the dogs in cute spandex instead of the average Crufts effort’ I thought (and probably said out loud, if I’m honest).
I childishly chuckled to myself and kept reading but something stuck with me. For the rest of the journey I pondered; what if we could create a brand which encompassed all humanitarian and rescue work under one umbrella – so anyone could be included in some way, shape or form, and at any age? Something for volunteers, rescuers, adopters, fosterers, fundraisers – anyone invested in or even just wanting to learn about rescue work. And what if all these people collaborated globally and came together even just once a year to support each other and find common goals?
What an amazing thing if everyone who had the same values and goals pushed together for change, rather than working in silos (I realise for many I am very late to the party here).
And just how much would some people simply hate the idea and call me a deluded, naive hippy?
Will it even work?
I wrote a very basic proposal, including all my ideas for what Rescuemania could represent and how it could reach people in a way that would make them want to listen. Then I carried on with my day job and my volunteering, always thinking that one day I would find the right time to proceed with these ideas.
I was realising from my experience working on the edge of the rescue industry that it is full of many exhausted and emotionally drained, yet amazingly lionhearted people who, by the very nature of the sensitive work they do, are often inexplicably ridiculed or threatened and therefore want to protect their own and can be suspicious about other people and their intentions. Tempers flare over social media, and sometimes in person. Friends can quickly become enemies and a stranger will suddenly become the only person you can trust. Money is tight, hours are endless and the pain of seeing the worst of life affects you in ways you couldn’t possibly imagine until it happens to you.
The novelty of the idea wore off and life continued.
A year later, my husband and I were in a pub garden, meeting a friend and putting the world to rights on everything from foreign rescue, to refugees, to Brexit. We had recently parted ways with the dog rescue we worked for and our desire was to get back into the world of hands-on rescue.
At this point, a man sitting at the next table to us was listening and interrupted to ask why we would care to rescue foreign dogs when we have so many problems at home. This is a common question to anyone who has been involved in foreign dog rescue. It’s a topic I do want to cover one day as I have always understood where some of the concern stems from and feel that given the right information, some people (at least) could be a little bit less angry about it, even if ultimately, they never agree.
Anyway, I digress – the man in the pub was lovely, listened to us explain what we had done before and wanted to do again, and how guilty we felt at not doing more as we knew the extent of what happens to people and animals all over the world.
At this point another couple in the pub joined in the chat: “I wish I could get involved in rescue work, I just don’t have the time to volunteer, I already work 50 hours a week!”.
And that’s when I realised the flaw in how charity work currently promotes itself. I suspect many have tried to get involved with a charity at some point only to be told that they need you on a Tuesday morning between 10am and 12pm, or their training course is every consecutive weekend for 4 weeks and you can’t miss a session. Unless you are lucky enough to find a charity who will take you whenever you are free and for however long you can give, it is easy to get put off or run out of time researching and end up donating money instead (no bad thing I might add, but some people would love the opportunity to get their hands dirty as well).
Let’s do this!
In the weeks following meeting the nice people in the pub (and being spurred on by the man shaking my hand and saying “I have enjoyed this chat, I feel motivated. However, I will go home and probably forget it all”), the motivation for the Rescuemania idea came back to me and grew into a different format than before. No dogs in spandex are planned, not yet anyway.
My personal passion is to support and work in-country to help people help themselves – which can be financially and legally challenging amongst other things, but I truly believe it is the future of making a long-term difference to the attitudes of those against or hesitant to embrace human/animal rights and welfare. Like many I also work a typical 50 hour a week corporate job and whilst I have been lucky enough to learn about working with rescue animals in great depth, administration is where my career skills lie.
So, I decided I wanted to champion people who run genuine, legitimate, non-government funded rescues and shelters in the UK and abroad, to help them build awareness and much needed funds for their work through great communication and organisation techniques, tackling it on a global level.
I mean, why not at least give it a go?
The flip side of working alongside multiple international charities at this level is that we can give people who may not think they have the time or opportunity to fit any volunteer work into their life, a wealth of options; from sanctuary volunteering, fundraising, donating, dog walking, maintenance work and administrative support to choosing a volunteer holiday instead of a regular one to break up the time on the beach.
Maybe some of the organisations who get involved will meet other like-minded organisations and find a benefit in working together, where before they had not had the time or breathing space to even consider it.
Where do we go from here?
Ultimately, our idea was changing to become a way to engage people with all the great work being done by charities and not-for-profit organisations around them, while giving the institutions themselves the support they need to grow and manage their workloads without some of the emotional and financial burdens many face. This naturally leads to supporting ecotourism, something I am very keen to learn more about and then share, as well as making more ethical decisions in all areas of life.
It was clear it would be a huge learning process with lots of stops, starts, changes and zigzags. I am lucky enough to have a husband who is as enthused and engaged with this vision as I am, as well as a group of very talented friends who were almost immediately onboard and ready to go.
In a world of aggressive social media techniques, corrupt practices, hostility between borders and worrying times for so many who rely solely on the generosity of others, there is still so much progress being made in the world to inspire us and for us to champion, as well as so many amazing people to help empower.
So here we are. Getting started and hoping to join the ranks of so many before us who want to make a difference. For those wishing to jump on board, welcome to the movement!