Just the other day, whilst fundraising at Brighton train station, a young man approached me to put some money in my collecting tin and asked ‘why the Greek Animal Welfare Fund, is it really that bad over there?’ Sadly the answer is yes and due to the dire economic situation in Greece right now, GAWF is needed more than ever. Animals have become the latest victims of the financial crisis as they are neglected and sometimes turned out onto the street when people can no longer afford to keep them. Luckily GAWF is there to step in and help. Here’s a little bit about how we started…
Back in 1959, a British woman, Eleanor Close, moved to Greece with her husband and was shocked by the scenes that confronted her. Sick and starving dogs and cats roaming the streets; bony dogs in hospital laboratories waiting their turn to take part in cruel experiments; exhausted horses and donkeys at the end of their working lives – abandoned to fend for themselves because they were no longer useful, and abattoirs using medieval practices in the slaughter of animals. The list goes on.
Mrs Close quickly set up a working group of Greek, English and American women and their aim was to change the way people viewed animals but above all, to improve the animals’ lives.
Over the decades that followed, GAWF made dramatic inroads and supported hundreds of local welfare groups, raised funds for veterinary equipment/medicines and donated them, neutered and treated countless animals, gave grants and emergency funding to those in desperate need and launched a national education drive to raise awareness of the needs of animals – to name just a few of our activities.
Today, we are continuing the work Mrs Close began, reinvigorated and with as strong a will as ever, always with the same aim in view: to improve the welfare of all animals in Greece.
GAWF now operates in Greece as Animal Action (because the Action happens in Greece and we Fund the work from the UK). We continue to work with street animals, working animals, farm animals and pets – in fact, any animals that need our help.
We believe in working within Greece to find practical and sustainable solutions to animal welfare problems, and our track record speaks for itself. In February 2012, after a relentless campaign, GAWF welcomed the ban on both domestic and wild animal circuses – a first inEurope! We continue to build on this success every day with the help of our generous and compassionate supporters (and wonderful companies like Animal Friends Insurance!) and as a very small team, we rely on these kind people a great deal.
Last year alone we enabled over 3000 neuterings and we achieved this through cooperating with Greek people and animal welfare groups across the country. We also worked to improve the wellbeing of over 1500 horses, donkeys and mules in various locations all over Greece through our mobile Equine Team Project. We have seen a vast improvement in the way people treat animals in the 50+ years GAWF has been active and we are certain we will continue to see more positive results as we look to the future.
So, going back to the guy at the train station, I told him that GAWF is absolutely essential for the animals in Greece and we do need a charity working specifically for them. Sadly, Mrs Close is no longer with us but I often wonder whether she ever imagined what an amazing and lasting legacy she would leave.Greeceis a beautiful country and it is often only ignorance that is responsible for the poor treatment of animals. By working with the people in Greece, on their level and in a way that shows them the benefit of treating animals compassionately, we are seeing real changes. So do holiday there, and have a fantastic time safe in the knowledge that GAWF will be there for the animals all year round, and for as long as they need us.
Head of UK Operations – GAWF