So it all boiled down to this day.
Three months ago a friend told me that his girlfriend is working for a non-profit company that fundraises for other charities. He told me that they are looking to represent an animal charity aside from human and social requests, so he introduced Whiskers’ Syndicate.
Within a week or so they contacted me, told me about their program and how they would love to help animals as well, and that they are seeking if they can fundraise for us.
It’s new. Animal welfare is not even a thing until the past few years; and I am glad my country is changing. I was excited about taking part in showing more about compassion to animals and the works it encompasses; I was excited about sharing my experiences and have the younger generation be better, I was excited about showing the countless things people can do, where to do it, and how.
So I let the fundraiser signed me up, and their first cover story was Thelma and her past life as a dog fighting bait. I wrote the story myself.
The story blew up, and Thelma raised USD 20,000.
Every weekend, they will come to our shelter and take photos, shoot videos, having me standing in front of the camera to have mini interviews about running a charity and sharing experiences in caring for special needs cats – Thank God for Covid, I can wear a mask in front of the camera!
In the middle of the next month, they sent us about USD 1,900 that we spent to keep as many street cats as possible to stay alive during 4 weeks of complete lockdown.
Then they asked me if I have some programs that they can help fundraise. I told them my priorities at that time was helping pet parents impacted by COVID 19 keep their pets, and a massive TNR effort to tackle all those cats dumped on the street during the heat of the pandemic, for whatever reasons, before they breed and sink this town to the sea.
I have never heard from them again, though they keep coming to the shelter to take pictures and shoot videos, asking about histories of this cat or that cat.
The next month, they sent me USD 2,000 that I have to use to buy cat food, make them into 200 packages, which they will distribute to people who feed stray cats. Still in the same month, they sent another sum of USD 340 to be used by the shelter.
It didn’t ring well for me. They fundraise on our behalf, we pay comission, and they get to tell us what to do with the money we raised?
But as long as it helps the cats, I don’t mind.
Yet another month, they sent us USD 150, and ask me for yet another story to boost. They came to the shelter, took photos, make videos.
And then, that’s it.
Soon enough, people start asking, what are we going to do with USD 20,000. Some other thought they can just be plain and ask us for money. When we said we don’t have any, they retorted with their fingers on our noses, because everyone can see USD 20,000 very clearly under our name in the fundraiser’s website.
Very often I just challenged them back and ask them to call the fundraiser and demand an explanation about the whereabouts of that USD 20,000, because I have valid evidence that I have never received any more than the fraction of that money that they sent us.
The air is getting sourer by the day, however, so before someone decided to blow us up as cheater and fakes all over social media, I told them what was going on, and ask them where is the money.
They told me they did fundraise that much money, but they keep it for their own programs, like street feeding (exposed by the media), TNR (they want to have it in a shopping mall for exposure), and many other thingss.
None of those things pertain to us.
They fundraise using our cats, our stories, our photos, and they are keeping the money for their programs.
The girl asked me why.
I told them I need money to spay and neuter my own cats before they multiply in number and kill the whole shelter. Our place is too full. So full that we, they, can barely walk, sit, or even stand still, because there are always at least four cats around each of us doing whatever they want. We are threading a very thin line because once someone catches a contagious disease, we put 160 cats’ lives in danger all at the same time. And even if only half of them got sick, who will take care of them? There are only two of us running the whole thing, and we still have to work to feed everyone.
I told them I need money to expand the shelter and make more space for the cats. USD 20,000 is enough to buy a new house and all I need is a second floor.
And they are keeping the money they make using our cats and our shelter for their programs?
It’s a tough struggle. Struggle to contain my anger, struggle to control my emotions, struggle to find the light among this pile of sh!t and find a solution.
I cannot stop. I have to keep working, I have to keep moving, because if I stop, this whole thing will coup my mind and I will either cry, mad, desperate, or depressed, each of them will only drag me further away from my focus. This is indeed, difficult times. I am very lucky I can find a job and got to keep my online shop running while others found themselves thrown out there jobless and homeless, so I better stick to it so I can bring the whole shelter out of this crisis in one piece.
When I eventually regain my footing, I came knocking at their door again, ready to negotiate. If they want to use the money they raised using our cats and shelter for mass spay and neuter cats like what they see in Animal Planet, or Discovery or Facebook, that’s fine, but include my cats. If they want to use the money they raised using my cats and their pain and our shelter to buy cat food and give them to individual rescuers (whether they actually rescue or not, as long as they feed the cats), that’s fine, but help me buy food for my cats as well. I don’t care anymore who has the money, as long as they use it to help the cats, that’s fine.
They want to spend USD 3,500 to subsidize a cat owner to spay/neuter their cats. I ask them, instead of helping a pet owner spay neutering their cats, why not mass spay strays who breed out of control?
They said “We will. We will spay and neuter 20 cats”
The street cats I feed in one area alone is already close to 100, and they want to spay 20 stray cats?
I called contractors and ask them how much would it take to build extra floor on our shelter, and gave the calculations to the girl. She glanced at it and ask “What if we cannot give you as much as you want?”
This is what I wrote to her:
It is my ultimate home that the renovation costs can be covered in full. Our cat: Thelma, has opened the way for your organization to get into animal welfare community and her story have led you all the way to your current success. Thelma is the cat we care for with all our heart, spending our own money and our own effort. She has been the icon of your organization. I find it tragic that at the time when we – Thelma’s caretaker and home – need it the most, you withheld the money she raised and put us in such position where we have to beg for the money that supposed to be ours.
I truly understand you need, but with utmost humility, I cannot promise anything. For the time being all I can do is to submit your renovation calculation to my superior for his approval. Please be understanding. If we cannot give you that much money, there is no need to be worried. I will make another fundraiser for the shelter renovations, but please co-operate. I am grateful for all your contribution to our organization.
If it’s me, personally I want to help you with the renovations, but all the decision is with the chairman. I will try my best for approval.
Sheilla said, “Just look, they will look as if they are helping us, but they are just stealing your ideas, your network. Once they have all the access, all the good reputations, all the network you have been working so hard to build over these past ten years, that chairman will throw you down the drain”
I don’t have to wait to see. First they steal the money, then they steal the ideas.
It’s truly annoying that I have to play their games just to get as much as I can for the money that should belong to us, but if it can still benefit even just twenty stray cats, I will play the game.
God sent me out like sheep among wolves. Therefore I will be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.
There is this proverb in this country: “[God] never switch blessings, what is yours, is yours”
Since even with my most sincere intention, I still don’t get what should be mine, it means, it’s not mine, or not yet.
Maybe I am searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots.
So let’s close one more door, turn off one more hope, and start walking.