Sauvons nos Animaux (Democratic Republic of Congo) completes their AKI grant project!
Sauvons nos Animaux used the AKI grant to construct two structures at their shelter: One pen that holds about 25 dogs, currently at the shelter, but who previously had no kennel to call home; and the other pen for quarantine of incoming dogs. We show you below, in pictures, the construction from start to completion. And then, be sure to read about Paterne Bushunju and how he went from saving 1 puppy to being the founder of Sauvons nos Animaux and a full-time savior of animals.
The Sauvons nos Animaux shelter in Bukavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a special place. It was started in 2014 by Paterne Bushunju, who told us how he grew up in the DRC, where dogs and cats were scorned, yet he became a savior of animals:
"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 and seriously injured. 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 block them, but they attacked me with a knife and when the puppy got in the way, they picked it up and threw it at me. That gave me the idea of starting to hide the dogs from abuse. That day reminded me of the execution of a Rwandan refugee in the Panzi refugee camp and I realized that man and the animal are 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 asked Paterne if things have changed since he was growing up, and it seems they have (but certainly there's still a long way to go):
"Yes, attitudes are changing and I am very proud of that, because that is not the image these children used to have of the dog and cat they have today. The children come to the shelter to play with the animals and their parents do not forbid them, and I am convinced that these children will defend the animals all their lives.
But in Bukavu and throughout South Kivu province, some people still think that dogs and cats are evil and that they are sorcerers who sometimes turn into dogs and cats and that they are only there to bite. Everyone has their own way of treating dogs, some have dogs just to secure the house at night and during the day the dog stays in its cage, others have started breeding dogs to sell meat illegally, because customs in South Kivu do not allow people to eat the dog's meat [legally]. Cats have only one role, that of hunting rats in the house and when they reach a certain age, they are driven out of the house or killed."
We talked about how Paterne went from saving one puppy to starting an animal shelter with about 70 dogs and 45 cats:
"I had started helping dogs and cats without having any idea about the animal shelter, I was just welcoming them to my place to spare them from abuse or being killed. It was only when I posted my pictures with these dogs on Facebook to see the reactions of my friends who didn't like dogs, at that moment I met Mr Giancarlo, head of the Ecospirituality Foundation Onlus. It was thanks to him that I discovered that many people in Europe help animals such as dogs, cats, etc.
So I began to research and research and learn more about how they help so many animals, and that's when the idea came to me to turn my little shelter into a dog and cat shelter.
My family was the first to discourage me and ask me if I lost my mind, how an environmental engineer can take care of the dogs instead of doing something big, but today they understood that I am on the right track and defending the animals was something big and three of my little brothers are volunteers at the shelter.
Some of my friends understood, encouraged me and became whistleblowers in case of abuse or abandonment, others did not want to understand and think that there is something else hidden behind the work I do with the animals."
It sounds like Mr. Giancarlo had a big impact on you:
Mr Giancarlo, Peace to his soul, when he saw my pictures on Facebook, he sent me a message saying I appreciate what you are doing, how can I help you? I didn't believe it. He told me, the pictures you put on Facebook are a blur, 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 there is a package for me, and in the package a Samsung SII phone and it all started from there.
I had made a report to Mr Giancarlo about the dogs and cats, and he sent funds to get this spacious place where the animals will live in peace. And because of that, I decided to create an animal protection association called SAUVONS NOS ANIMAUX."
I told Paterne he has an amazing story and his work is almost beyond belief, especially the way he grew up, to become so dedicated to dogs and cats. Paterne's closing thoughts to me were:
"The well-being of our dogs and cats is one of our priorities. Our dogs are out for a walk every day and depending on the number of volunteers present, some may go out several times in the same day. They also enjoy, every day, moments of relaxation, among themselves, in our refuge.
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."