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Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children

by Vusumnotfo
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Using Animal Care to Promote Empathy in Children
Hand-in-hand
Hand-in-hand

No need to remind you of the extra challenges from COVID-19 being experienced by people throughout the world. Eswatini declared a national emergency with partial lock down now being enforced. Although Eswatini has nine cases to date, the government is well aware of the threat, so nation wide preventative measures are in place.

In these challenging times we need to remember to see the good things that are still happening around us. I took these photos at a community session at Emfasini where we were discussing the requirements for drilling a borehole for a hand pump to improve domestic water supply.

This father caught my eye for several reasons; his attentive interaction with his son was a pleasure to observe, and his dogs were so content and loyal to him.

For those of you who have experienced positive companionship with animals, you know that animal-care and child-care go hand in hand. Particularly during social isolation, the companionship from animals provides comfort to our emotional wellbeing.

Planning for the upcoming spay day on June 20 is in full swing, although we are aware that the date may need to be reset due to the COVIC-19 situation. We have selected a location that is 20 Km on a gravel road. The three cattle dip tanks in the area have a combined total of 765 dogs (278 owners), so this community has a very high need for a spay day.

What I find heartening is that doing the spay day as an annual event has created momentum that is really taking hold. Through out the year, people ask us about this event. The planning flows now because people have heard about it or know someone whose dog is now so much healthier.  When I walked into the Mayiwane Ministry of Agriculture Office, I was greeted with “so, its time for the spay day again right?”

Your support is what makes this momentum and the positive results from this project possible. Thank you.

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The headlines throughout 2019 highlighted many challenges throughout the world. For this reason the BBC article “The Syrian town with more cats than people” by Mike Thomson caught my eye.

After months of intensive bombing by Syrian and Russian forces, the town of Kafr Nabl in Syria's last rebel-held province is now home to more cats than people. Humans and felines now provide comfort to one another in hard times, writes the BBC's Mike Thomson. https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-50856274

Crouched beneath a table in the corner of his rubblestrewn basement, a man shelters from the barrage of bombs above. But 32-year-old Salah Jaar is not alone. Huddled beside him are half a dozen assorted cats, all as petrified as he is.  

"It's comforting when the cats are close," he tells me. "'It makes the bombardment, the demolition, the suffering, seem much less frightening."

And even though people like Salah can no longer be sure of staying alive, never mind where their next meal is coming from, it seems there is always a place at the table for his four-legged friends.

"Whenever I eat, they eat, whether it's vegetables, noodles or just dried bread. In this situation I feel that we're both weak creatures and need to help each other," he says.

On a much less intense level, this underlying companionship is why Vusumnotfo uses animal care as a tool to promote responsibility and empathy in young children.

As 2019 ends and 2020 starts, this message is an appreciation for your support towards this objective.

My wish for you is the joy and gratitude that arises from positive companionship with all living things - a small reflection of our humanity. 

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New puppy from SAWS
New puppy from SAWS

Merry Christmas from my daughter Siyamthanda and Bruno, her new puppy from Swaziland Animal Welfare Society (SAWS). Bruno is a really sweet puppy - healthy, content, and used to being treated well by the people caring for him at SAWS - a perfect match for Siyamthanda.

My family has benefited from this project. Our other dog (Sushi) and cat (Vicky) were each neutered at the spay day held at Mshingishingini Community on June 21, 2014.

Since than, both Vicky and Sushi are healthy and content. Their fur is soft and fluffy. They now stay at home and no longer roam. When family members come home Sushi, and even Vicky, are waiting at the gate to greet us. It is a nice feeling. 

Our neighbours often say they want animals like mine. Its not common for dogs and cats in rural Swaziland to live long so that Vicky and Sushi remain alive and healthy since 2014 is very much noticed. I get asked a lot of questions by people in my community and this gives me an opportunity to explain about animal care. 

My husband  even lets Vicky sleep next to him. This is not at all common and certainly not traditional. But once you start experiencing first hand the companionship that naturally comes from a well cared for animal,  it’s a nice feeling that boosts your day.

When we decided to get another dog, we went straight to SAWS because their animals come fully vaccinated and operated on. Our neighbours have already noticed how nice Bruno is (even the one who previously was mean to my dog back when it roamed). 

Thank you for your support that helps make this annual spay day happen.  I like sharing  the benefit with my children and explaining it to my neighbours. 

Vusumnotfo uses animal care as a tool to promote responsibility and empathy in young children.  Conducting an annual spay day in the rural area provides first hand experience of the health and companionship benefits that naturally arise when dogs and cats are spayed and neutered cats, and therefore encourages people in future to get their dogs and cats from SAWS. We are already fielding questions about our 2020 spay day - June 20, 2020!

Leaving SAWS
Leaving SAWS
Tired after "participating" in Scout workshop
Tired after "participating" in Scout workshop

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Need for medical care at spay day
Need for medical care at spay day

Many people in the rural area are not aware of how dogs and cats can be treated for medical conditions, or have access to doing so.  So once their dog or cat picks up a medical condition, it just suffers along or eventually dies. 

Our spay day provides a growing number of people with first hand benefit of well cared for dogs and cats, which in turn promotes good animal care as a parenting tool to promote responsibility and emapthy in young children. 

However we could not do a spay day without the partnership of Swaziland Animal Welfare Sciety (SWAS).  While Vusumnotfo organizes the community side of things, it is SWAS who organizes the medicines and liaisons with Swaziland Veterinary Association for the donation of their medical services, and with Waterfor United World College community service for their trained students who assist the vets and run the recovery room. 

SWAS is a long established animal shelter in the capital city of Mbabane, with a branch in Manzini (both are 1.5 hours drive from Vusumnotfo, and longer if on public transport). Like animal shelters everywhere, it is an ongoing challenge to keep operations going. There are plenty of dogs and cats that need medical care and adoption, but to do so requires volunteers, staff and operating funds. 

Therefore please note that SWAS is participating in the Global Giving challenge Dec 3-31 with the hope of being able to generate support for their two shelters and adoption sevices on Global Giving. 

Drawing on the positive outcomes of our spay day, SWAS now has the goal of doing 3 spay clinics per year, thereby extending their services into the rural area (the June spay day being reserved for Vusumnotfo's area of operation).

In our 2019 spay day we also had photos of dogs and cats available for adoption, as a strategy to encourage people to get their dogs and cats from SWAS as these animals are already operated on and have received all their vaccinations and immunizations. 

When we bring community participants to town for national radio recordings we also visit SWAS so that they see first hand the dogs and cats available for adoption. 

We value our partnership with SWAS and are happy to promote their Global Giving posting accordingly. 

Bad case of mange
Bad case of mange
Advertising SWAS animals for adoption
Advertising SWAS animals for adoption
Spay day would not be possible without SWAS
Spay day would not be possible without SWAS
Bringing people to see dogs available at SWAS
Bringing people to see dogs available at SWAS

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Watching surgery
Watching surgery

As an addition to our 2019 spay day, group of eight 12-year olds who were keen scientists and had an interest in pursuing medicine were given a guided tour during the spay day. I took them around to each of the stations where we observed with the opportunity to ask many questions.

The first room we went to was where animals only coming for health checks and vaccinations were examined. We saw the animals be weighed, vaccinated and have their eyes, ears and gums checked. We all stood attentively to watch the vets at work, three dogs at once receiving treatment. On our way to the next room we talked through why it was a good idea to neuter animals. The kids had some great answers ‘so they become less aggressive’, ‘so they don’t go and annoy your neighbour’s dog’.

We then headed to the pre-operation room where vets would check if a dog was healthy enough to undergo the operation before anaesthetising and shaving it if it passed their assessment. The kids seemed rather surprised as we watched one big dog struggle on the surgical table, fighting the vets before the anaesthetic finally kicked in and he became unconscious, his tongue lolling out of his mouth. The shaving of the dog’s genitals also caused a good deal of interest and laughter from the kids, I think they were worried the dog would wake up and not be pleased at what was happening to him!

Next, we went to what was normally a classroom for Mkuzweni Primary but today had been transformed into an operating theatre. Five vets were busy with different operations. The kids went in groups of 2 or three to shadow a vet and watch the animals undergo surgery.

Regrouping at the end, the kids were totally different from the restless bunch I picked up that afternoon. Their faces changed completely when they recounted what they thought of the spay day and of the surgery in particular - opinions ranged from how scary they thought it was, to fears that the dog wouldn’t wake up and how amazing it was to witness this happen.

Lucky - It was so interesting. It was also scary in surgery but you must not be scared.

Sebulelo - I felt pain for one dog and I also realized it was a difficult procedure.

Surprise - The whole experience was scary, especially the cutting and shaving. I thought the dogs were not going to wake up afterwards but they did.

Nosisa - Very scary first time then it became WOW in surgery. I became very encouraged to keep observing in surgery.

Nobuhle - It was scary to see it. I learnt how to do things when I am also a doctor. It encouraged my desire to be a doctor.

Nonsindiso - It felt phenomenal because I think it is my destiny to be a doctor.

Simangele - I feel like I’m dreaming when I see all the dogs in surgery. I was surprised because it is the first time I have seen such a thing. I did not even know it was possible to do such surgery. I will for sure have a dog spayed.

Banele - I left pain for the dog and I was scared for it. I did not think the dog would wake up. It made me more interested to be a doctor.

It was amazing to see the impact of a totally new experience on the kids and was incredibly rewarding to see how it galvanised their dreams of the future. As our strategy for the spay day is to use animal care to promote empathy and responsibility in children, it was also a nice indication that our message is getting through!

Thank you for your support as this is critical to making this annual event happen - the date of June 20, 2020 has already been set!

Vets explaining
Vets explaining
Many questions
Many questions
Talking through fears
Talking through fears
Still breathing
Still breathing

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Organization Information

Vusumnotfo

Location: Piggs Peak, Hhohho Region - Eswatini
Website:
Project Leader:
kathy gau
Piggs Peak, Hhohho Region Eswatini

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