Spend a day with Liberia Animal Welfare & Conservation Society
LAWCS has been an AKI partner organization since January 2016. AKI (you, our donors) supports their Humane Education Program, including hands-on, student-led humane ed projects, animal care clinics, and other LAWCS priorities. While working in Liberia from February 24-March 10, I had Sunday, March 5 off from work, so I spent the day with LAWCS and had a chance to see them in action.
First of all, LAWCS is located in Voinjama, Lofa County, which is about 8 hours from the capital, Monrovia--and that's in the dry season with a very fast and experienced driver. It can take as long as 12 hours--or even a few days--during the rainy season to get from Monrovia to Voinjama. Luckily, I was working in Lofa County and stayed in Voinjama for a few days, so I could easily visit with LAWCS.
When I arrived on Saturday, March 4, Morris and Abraham (Abie) came to my guest house for a Liberian welcome (picture below)!
We made plans for Sunday, which would include: an animal care clinic in Malamai, just outside of Voinjama, a meeting with LAWCS staff, and a visit with Humane Education Program students.
Animal Care Clinic
Sunday started early, when at 7:00 AM, LAWCS volunteer, Alex Kamara, picked me up on his motorbike (purchased with AKI funds--a motorbike is the only way to get around on some of these roads) to head to Malamai. Only a few people were waiting when we arrived (2 pictures below).
So we walked around the village to let people know the clinic was ready to begin. We noticed that some families were bathing their dogs in preparation for the clinic (picture below left) and others were already making their way to the clinic location (picture below right).
Within minutes, a crowd had gathered-with their dogs (4 pictures below). LAWCS volunteers (Abie, Alex, Joseph, and Morris) put posters up, set out the meds and supplies, and Abie started talking to the group about caring for their dogs and cats (no cats were there, but certainly cat owners were).
After Abie presented information about feeding, water, being kind, and basic pet care, Joseph brought out the dog food --to many oohs and aahs (it looked and smelled so good). There's no pet food in stores in Lofa County, so you have to make your own--dogs eat what people eat, but rarely get any of the goodies. Joseph's batch of food had everything-meat, greens, and rice (2 pictures below).
Next, dog owners brought their pets to Abie for a check up and to be treated for various problems (picture below). The supplies are limited--Abie treats for fleas, ticks, and mange, has meds for ear and eye inflammations, and he de-worms. There's no rabies, distemper, or parvo vaccines. There's no way to diagnose illnesses. Abie isn't a vet; he spent 1 month working side by side with a vet in Guinea. The only vets in Liberia are in Monrovia (1 local vet who works on livestock and 2 expat vets).
We witnessed what that actually means (having no vet, no capacity to diagnose) when this little puppy was brought to the clinic, obviously sick, but of course, his owners didn't realize that (pictures below). All we could do was guess--and we guessed distemper. We knew we needed to keep the puppy away from other animals, so I held him until the clinic was finished. Then I loaded him into my knapsack, and got on the back of Alex's motor bike and Joseph led us to his house, where we placed the puppy in a safe, quiet place. We were all heartened when he drank water and ate a little. But so sadly, he died 3 days later, on Wednesday.
Meeting with LAWCS Volunteers
After the clinic, we all headed back to the LAWCS office for a meeting. I met the volunteers who I hadn't met on previous visits (some of whom I met at the clinic): Joseph who is in charge of LAWCS sustainable school/community vegetable gardens and oversees humane education in Voinjama; Aminata, who oversees humane education in Voinjama; Alex and Mustafa, who teach humane education in Kolahun; Aaron, who teaches humane education in Foya; Abie, who teaches humane education in Foya and is the LAWCS Community Animal Health Care Specialist; Haja, in charge of finances; and of course, Morris, founder and director of LAWCS.
Then, I unpacked my suitcase, filled with humane education material (picture below), all donated by Tina--thank you Tina!
We discussed LAWCS activities, plans, challenges, dreams. In addition to AKI's ongoing support to LAWCS, we hope to get Abie trained to better diagnose and treat dogs and cats. We discussed possibilities for hands-on training.
Humane Education Students
The last activity of the day was a visit to the LAWCS office by 12 students, from 6 schools in Voinjama, who participate in the LAWCS Humane Education Program and are involved in Kindness Clubs (2 pictures below). They told us about what they've learned, how they help animals, what their Kindness Clubs do, and about their own pets, and they sang a song about animals! You can see more of their visit on our AKI Videos page on the AKI website (also available on our AnimalsInternational Youtube channel).
After a full day, it was time to say goodbye to LAWCS. The guys got on their motorbikes (picture below), 2 of which were purchased thanks to funding from AKI donors, and I hopped on Alex's motorbike for the last time that day, and we waved goodbye.
A Last Word
If there's anything striking about LAWCS it's how much they do-and have accomplished- with so little and how much they do given the circumstances in northern Liberia: no vet; power and water are luxuries; very few supplies-everything from educational material to med/vet supplies; as well as how few people would ever have been exposed to the concept of kindness to animals (which LAWCS takes a step further, linking it to kindness to people), if it wasn't for LAWCS. Over 50,000 students and thousands of adults would never have heard this kindness concept.
To bring some reality to that-in Lofa County, I saw people and their pets spending time together, their pets in nice shape, I never saw an act of cruelty. When I left Lofa County, I can't say the same.
LAWCS is primed to bring their Humane Education Program to more counties in Liberia (and boy, do the other counties need it!). LAWCS is ready to offer more animal care clinics. But LAWCS needs our help. From the pictures in this post, you can see that in Liberia, people can't afford to donate to an animal welfare organization-and a little donation goes a long way!
We'd love to see more people and their pets like in the below pictures (from the Malamai Animal Care Clinic), and LAWCS can help make that happen with our support. You can designate LAWCS for your donation under Support AKI on the AKI website. THANK YOU, WE ARE GRATEFUL!