Paterne Bushunju in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo: A Life Dedicated to Helping Animals
Paterne Buhunju has an unusual passion, at least in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it's unusual. He spends his days caring for dogs and cats at the shelter he created. Paterne applied for an AKI grant in 2019 on behalf of his organization, Sauvons Nos Animaux. Although we were unable to fund the project, we think you'll love hearing Paterne's story-we did:
In my childhood, I didn't have the chance to live with a dog or cat at home, simply because my parents didn't like them. I grew up in a neighborhood where people had in mind that witches turned into dogs and cats, so every day we could see in Bukavu stray dogs, dead, seriously injured, other people burning them alive. When I was growing up, this was common in Bukavu and throughout South Kivu province. Every time a dog passed by, all the young people and children ran behind the animal shouting "mission mission" all while throwing stones at it until the animal succumbed.
One day the young people in my neighbourhood were chasing a puppy for no reason. The puppy screamed. I tried to chase them away, but they attacked me with a knife. Then they threw the puppy at me. And that started this idea to hide the dogs from abuse since I have already assisted that day. This incident reminded me of the execution of a Rwandan refugee in the Panzi refugee camp when I accompanied my mother to the apostolate. I realized that man and the recent animal were the same thing and all have the right to life. It is at that moment that I committed myself to do something for these animals.
I always loved dogs. When I was a child, I started by welcoming a stray dog whose leg had been amputated and I gave it the name Hatia (which means Innocent), but unfortunately my parents didn't want this dog. I had to look for a place to shelter it. I put it in a small abandoned church just next door, where I soon welcomed three more dogs. I fed them and washed them.
As time went by, and I sheltered more dogs, I decided to post dogs on Facebook for fun to see how my friends will react and there, a man named Giancarlo (peace to his soul) sent me a message saying I appreciate what you are doing, how can I help you? I didn't believe it. He told me that the pictures you put on Facebook are blurry, I'll send you a phone that takes a lot of pictures, give me your details. I sent him my details and a week later DHL calls me that they have a package for me. In the package a Samsung SII phone and it all started.
I took pictures that I sent him and published them. I explained to him how dogs are treated here at home, so he offered to open a bank account and he sent me for the first time 400 euros that allowed me to rent a house for my dogs and feed them at my own expense. I interested some young people to help me recover the dogs in case of abuse.
I had made a report to Mr Giancarlo (who I learned was head of the Ecospirituality Foundation Onlus). It is at that moment that he sent me 1000 euros which allowed me to stay in a spacious place where the dogs will live in peace.
So I decided to create an animal protection association called SAUVONS NOS ANIMAUX. My publications began to be shared on Facebook until a group of people decided to sponsor the dogs at the shelter.
Today our shelter is welcoming more and more abused, rambling and homeless animals and every day as I approach the shelter, I feel warm in my heart and when I arrive inside the shelter, I always tell myself that my biggest regret would be not to do more to help the animals. It's like I have to.
We'll be posting more from Paterne in future AKI Blog posts. Stay tuned.