The images that come to mind when thinking of Bali, Indonesia are turquoise blue water, stretches of white sandy beaches and the colorful, deeply spiritual culture; a dream vacation spot for many travelers. What we aren’t always privy to see is the struggle and suffering of Bali's street dogs.
Photographer and HeARTs Speak member, Alex Cearns has experienced the famed Island of the Gods first hand.
“The first time I visited Bali was in January 2010 and it was an immediate culture shock. I had barely left the airport when I saw the first of many skinny, injured and suffering dog.” Cearns recalls, “I felt an immediate need to do something to help and didn’t entirely enjoy my eight day vacation as I wasn’t contributing to in any way to improving the lives of these helpless and vulnerable creatures.”
Returning home, the images of the dogs of Bali wouldn’t leave her mind. Cearns felt compelled to do something about it.
She remembers, “I did some research and made contact with Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA), the animal charity in Bali who I felt has the most varied and effective programs for animals, and who had effected the most change. Just like our pets at home, Bali animals deserve to be loved, cared for and nourished. Yet thousands of street dogs, cats and other domestic animals in Bali endure starvation, disease and neglect. Left unattended these animals suffer enormously.”
Janice Girardi, the founder and director BAWA has an amazing way with the dogs in particular. She can approach a barking street dog and literally have it eating our of her hand minutes later. Whole villages of dogs have been transformed from skinny and unwell creatures to healthy animals of suitable weight and size under her care.
For the past 30 years Girardi has devoted her time and resources to saving the lives of Bali animals. She is hands on in everything she does, taking hours each day to feed street dogs, and scouring rubbish tips and temples looking for dumped puppies and kittens.
BAWA is dedicated to reducing the suffering of Bali's street dogs and other animals by running a 24 hour animal ambulance rescue service, a mobile sterilization clinic for population control and rabies eradication, a fully staffed veterinary clinic and rescue centre in Ubud, an animal adoption program, and a continually expanding range of community education programs to improve the health and welfare of Bali animals.
Girardi’s determination and passion are relentless and it is by no means an easy job - mostly thankless and frequently battling bureaucracy, ignorance and systemic apathy amongst Balinese people. She is a modern day saint to animals.
Currently BAWA has approximately 40 BAWA staff with a constant cycle of 5- 10 international volunteers at any given time. BAWA has an experienced team of 7 Indonesian vets, who have all received additional training from Bali Street Dog Fund vets and Veterinarians Beyond Borders. BAWA's vets are supported by a dedicated team of nurses and assistants.
At any time, BAWA is busy caring for approximately 150 animals and between 50-100 in villages. These animals are often dumped litters of puppies or kittens and sick, injured or abused animals. Most are homeless and all of them desperately need help. Currently
It is increasingly difficult for BAWA to continue this amazing work without the funds to support these operations. BAWA is funded entirely by individual donations, fundraising projects and the kind efforts of volunteers. They don't receive government support. Their mission is carried out by the tireless hands of the founder and the volunteers that share her dream.
Lori Fusaro has been voted the best portrait photographer by FoxTV three years in a row. She lives in Culver City with her husband, four cats and dog. Contact: Lori@FusaroPhotography.com, www.FusaroPhotography.com.