As a fresh-faced graduate, stepping out of school was a new journey altogether. Being on a gap year with a university offer, I decided to volunteer at the Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation (ACF) in January.
Initially, I remember being downright terrified! Coming from a household with little to no affinity for pets, I was not used to so many animals bounding up to me, all begging to be petted and loved. I recall spending most of my time in the office, sorting out files and churning out excel sheets. Wajiha and I would chat, and she’d show me the various puppies and kittens they’d keep outside the office. Slowly, I started getting comfortable with my surroundings.
A few days later, I ventured out of the office, and stood face to face with the three-legged Trio. In an attempt to make friends, she stood on her hind legs and held her front paw out to me. I held it to prop her up. I realised then that she didn’t even know me, yet she trusted me enough to support her with her one front paw. It felt simple, and truly honest. Trio became my first companion at the shelter.
From then onwards, I spent most of my time outside. I discovered that each animal has a unique personality; from the eccentric Scooby, to the introverted Princey, to the possessive Gaga…each of them seemed a being of its own; a shunned, unwanted existence which society had pushed away because they didn’t belong within their circle. They were no different than pedigrees, I thought. Except maybe they weren’t pampered, or well-fed, or spoilt the way our pets are. Yet, they still had a life, and never failed to make a deep, unwavering impact on those who met them and started loving them.
As the days passed, I bonded with the animals and the team. We’d laugh together if an animal did something goofy, and scold it if it was naughty. If one passed away, it was terrible. Most people would say, “Come on, it was just an animal!”, but we felt like we’d lost a best friend forever. It was a deep, sickening feeling which barrelled itself inwards to the very core.
ACF’s still relatively young, but the team is steadfast, and yearns to grow and improve. I feel like I’ve matured through my experiences here, and have discovered what it truly means to be empathic. Every time I see these animals; all yearning for love and affection, I am thankful for being given a chance to help the voiceless finally be given a voice. It is truly a powerful feeling.