The Karma Dog Project (TKD) is a desperately needed initiative aimed at helping animals in need in Thirumalaikodi, a small rural village in Tamil Nadu, South India. TKD is the first project to be taken on by Animal Care Thirumalaikodi (ACT), an exciting new non-profit organization founded in April 2011 by Helen Stuart, Aprile Schwartz, and Chrissi Junghans.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with ACT’s ever-inspiring co founder, Australian activist, Helen Stuart, and asked her to share her experience with starting and working through this newly forged organization and how she hopes to help desperate animals through this promising initiative.
Can you tell me what The Karma Dog Project (TKD) is all about?
The Karma Dog Project is an initiative of Animal Care Thirumalaikodi (ACT), a non-registered, non-governmental organization. Both were founded in April 2011 with the mission to improve the health and wellbeing of all animals in the area of Thirumalaikodi, a small rural village in Tamil Nadu, South India. There are no other animal welfare organizations within the surrounding villages, if any at all until you get to Chennai.
TKD Project’s main focus is currently on the stray dog issue. We have numerous strategies to approach this critical problem:
- Install water bowls that are refilled and cleaned daily to provide fresh water for ALL animals
- Waste management and cleaning of streets in the village to avoid an unhealthy food supply. This also includes education and awareness for the local villagers.
- Provide nurturing food for ALL stray animals – we consider it our responsibility to replace the unhealthy food with nutritious food.
- Medical care and treatment from on site veterinarians and assistants.
- Provide a shelter for free Medical Service, recovery and an Emergency Unit.
- Control the dog population with Animal Birth Control (ABC): The smartest and best way to help not only animals but also humans.
- Reduce the incidence of harmful diseases like rabies.
How did you become involved with The Karma Dog Project?
I was very blessed by having an opportunity to finally travel to India, which was always a goal for me. I have always been an activist as far as the needs of animals but that was never more in my face than when I arrived in India. I instantly fell in love with a very rich, beautiful country – for the first few days I walked around in awe! But then I started to see these poor little animals, barely able to walk. That’s when I realized I couldn’t simply walk past them – I needed to do something. I am so grateful I met Aprile and Chrissi!
Little did I know, my two new friends had been individually walking around giving every animal they encountered any water or food they had. When we discovered that we were all equally passionate about this one cause, we sat down to brainstorm and fleshed out what became our organization. Our big vision was soon put to paper and presented to local administrators. We also contacted a vet, and performed daily feeding and watering rounds.
What is your role?
As a co-founder, I work to spread the word about our organization and project to as many people as possible. Yes, we need money to make this happen – however, we also need the power of the people to make this happen. As a co-founder, I feel it is critical to speak to as many people as possible in as many mediums as possible. It is so critical to help these helpless animals! We need vets, bloggers, philanthropist’s, designers – anyone and everyone that has something to offer. Even a small gesture means a lot – and I thank all the people that have helped thus far.
What does The Karma Dog Project hope to achieve?
- Improvement of the wellbeing and health of animals; reduce suffering.
- Create a change in the attitude and handling of animals in the village.
- Improve health and safety for humans living there.
- Be a role model, and inspire others to care for and support others in need.
What positive changes have taken place since the inception of TKD Project?
The positive changes started to occur immediately, when I was there: locals started to understand what we were doing – it was no longer a foreign concept. When we first started, people looked at us as being very strange, but they soon began to truly see what we were doing. Now, through our action of taking care of the dogs and working with the local administration, we have two employed dog feeders!
What victories have you personally witnessed since working with TKD Project?
We saw the same puppy dogs every day, and I say puppy dogs loosely – these are disease-ridden dogs that are afraid of everything. Even trying to give them water or food was a struggle – but to finally win their trust was a victory for me. It was a hard-come reward, but so rewarding! Yahoo! Every time we had them eat or drink was a Yahoo!
Do you have a favourite moment working with TKD project? What has been your greatest reward?
I am not sure if it was Aprile or Chrissi who told me about a little puppy who was really malnourished and needed help – all I know is we needed to help a little soon-to-be-called Nambukkai! Nambukkai means HOPE. All I know is that we ran through the dark with our new vet and assistant trying to find our feisty puppy! For me it was scary, running around with other maybe rabid dogs, but our focus was on making sure Nambi was ok. After sometime, and a bitten assistant who is okay, we caught our Nambi!
That is one of my favourite moments.
What has touched your heart the most since the inception of The Karma Dog Project?
It is a really simple answer: meeting Aprile and Chrissi – this project wouldn’t exist without them!
What has been your most profound experience working with the Project?
Going to India and realizing the dire need for help! As an Australian who really doesn’t earn that much, I now know that a little can go long way!
What has been your greatest challenge?
Trying to help people understand the critical nature of why we have started this organization. We started it because the situation is dire! We could no longer just look at what the animals were going through. What the animals are going through is an extension of what the community lives in – let’s help!
How can individual readers help The Karma Dog Project’s cause? What are some things people living anywhere can do to help?
Obviously any financial help is critical to making this happen, however, as I said, the power of people is always key! Can your readers spread the word? We started this project through love, and hope through love that it will prosper and help the animals!
I would like to thank Helen for her generosity of time and spirit. The initiative she has taken, along with Aprile and Chrissi, is both admirable and staggering. It is inspiring to hear the voice of someone who so genuinely cares about the welfare of animals in need – and who isn’t afraid to step up and do what needs to be done to help them. One need only look through The Karma Dog Project’s online photo album to see how very real the need is.
You can find out more about The Karma Dog Project by visiting their website, where you can also make a donation. While donations are clearly needed, so is the need to spread the word. You can help by sharing their story. Tweet about them, ‘like’ their Facebook page and share it with your friends – and if you have a blog, write about them. As Helen so succinctly put it, people power is what the animals need most of all.
Photo credit: Helen Stuart