On May 5, 2008, I arrived at Bandung train station after 12 hours journey with only one travel bag and straight to the first day of work. I took a bath in the office, change my clothes in the office, throw my travel bag under my desk and straight to job one.
Today, May 5, 2016, eight years later, I am sworn in as one of a team of community leaders. I am in charge for issues related to environmental sustainability and climate change. In short, I have to lead people to live green.
I am not into politics and never will. Besides, with how things are going at the moment, I wouldn’t be able to take anymore responsibility unless I find a way to make 24 hours in a day into 28.
Still, I take it.
Not because of the promise of financial gain, but for the promise of power.
The power to make people listen, the power to educate people, the power of an opportunity to make a better turn for the street animals.
For about a year now, I have been growing my own vegetables. People got interested and I taught them about organic farming. More people coming, I told them story about urban farming. We have poor people in our community. We have struggling orphanage. The community leader’s wife, the one who likes cat, approach me, and I came there with a bunch of scrap fabric and taught the children to sew a cover for their Quran. I taught the boys how to grow their own carrots and cucumbers, I taught them how to make compost. Now they have their own shop and a sustainable life.
So the community came together and fund my urban farming project in an empty plot where Hanshin and the cats used to roll over on the wild grass. That empty plot is now a lush vegetable garden, gated, with a tiny house in the middle to store things, where cats of all walks of life share a bit of space with each other just to sit a while, or nap to their heart’s content.
The community came together and fund the water cleaning program; the community came together than fund crafting class where young mothers and older women share crafting ideas or baby nursing technique or exchange recipes for the next Sunday market where they sell things and donate to charity.
But there will be no fund for the TNR, no volunteer, nothing. the only promise is that they will leave me alone whenever I trapped the cats.
It took me eight years to build The Whiskers’ Syndicate, and the building is ongoing. It took me eight years to come the way I am now, with our own roof, our own website, one thousand followers.
It took me three years to successfully harvest my own vegetables, the ones that don’t have something that move inside them, the ones that are not misshaped, the one that tasted like fresh vegetable.
It took me the whole year to nudge a bunch of people to value handmade crafts, and although it is the money that win their appreciation, it’s a start.
It took me tears and blood. I crashed and burn, black and blue to get where I am.
Why would an alien like TNR win overnight?
But I don’t look for breakthrough, I look for progress. I don’t make revolution, I follow evolution. I do not anxiously count on what I have not yet have in my hand; I just put one feet after another.
A rustle at the back of the crowd cut everyone’s attention from the presentation and some didn’t hold back to look around. A skeletal cat jumped out of the garbage bin just next to the door.
“She has five kittens and she lives on the porch of the house at the corner”, the leader’s wife whispered.
Not everyday heaven is listening to my prayers.
By the end of the event, the mother cat and her kittens will be my pilot project. They will be the first of controlled colony in the whole community, and they will be my witness on the power of TNR in improving the quality of animals and man.
It will be my own money, my own energy, my own effort. I am not sure if I will have enough when the time comes. I am not sure if I will have enough means, I am not sure if I will have enough resources, or tools, or equipment.
But just like eight years ago today, I start the journey of thousand miles that led me to Whiskers’ Syndicate when I put my first step on that train station with only one travel bag, hope and faith, this time too, I will embark on this journey of another thousand miles, that hopefully lead to the betterment of street animals, one little alley after another.
So help me God.