CEO of ACF Ayesha Chundrigar exclusive interview

Ayesha Chundrigar Foundation was founded in 2013 with the vision of empowering marginalized as well as ignored communities that society usually deems hopeless and helpless. Those communities include people and animals alike, giving them a chance to live a better quality of life.

In conversation with Ayesha Chundrigar who is going the extra mile to advocate animal welfare in Pakistan, she also gives an insight in the problems the foundation is facing after heavy rainfall in Karachi.

What was your inspiration behind ACF?

ACF started off as a platform which was for all the neglected beings of the society. It was for those who cannot fend for themselves, in other words the most helpless and vulnerable beings in our society. So this is a platform for them to have their voices heard. Among those are helpless animals on the street that are completely ignored and neglected by everybody. So that is the inspiration behind ACF. No living being should be suffering without having their basic needs met. It is very important that we consider those basic rights and needs and consider it as our obligation to ensure that they have that right. This is the inspiration that has been there since I was a child and it was going to happen in some form or the other and it happened in the form of ACF.

What is your vision for the organization and where do you want to see it in next few years?

The vision for ACF is to essentially bring all the neglected and ignored parts of our society into the limelight and allow them to have a chance to live a decent and quality life where their needs are met. We started with animals because they are the most vulnerable in our society and they are ignored by all. As far as the next few years go what I foresee for ACF is the vision that animal welfare becomes a norm. It becomes so normal that it shouldn’t be seen as anything different.  Taking care of animals, being compassionate, kind, and decent human beings that respect other forms of life should become normal in our society and that’s what I’m truly hoping for. On a larger scale we can at least start a dialogue on that and see some changes. Perhaps it may be included in the curriculums of the schools. The government should establish animal right laws as well. Other than this, what I foresee for the future is to be seen on a national level and federal level.

How can the people reach out to ACF for donations or collaborations?

The best way to reach out to us is via our Instagram and facebook page. We are very active on social media. The other way is to email at [email protected]. We are happy for any collaboration. For those who want to donate, we can send them details whether they are international or local.

What are the current challenges that ACF faces after the damage caused by heavy rainfall in Karachi?

The current and biggest challenge we are facing after the flood is that there is a shortage of space because many of our quarantine rooms have been damaged. The second issue is that a lot of disease and infection have come with the rain. However we are dealing with that aftermath in the most effective way possible but with the shortage of space we are struggling severely. We are currently in the process of fund raising so that we can quickly get our routine back to normal. We were anyway expanding prior to the flood and now we don’t just have to expand we have to rebuild what we had already built because the need for rescues is so overwhelming and the growth is increasing on a daily basis. We get around 5 to 10 rescues a day into our shelter. We house about 500 animals at a time. So we can never have enough space so that is the biggest issue we are facing other than the floods.

How can the companies join hands with ACF and what sort of CSR campaigns can they launch to support your cause?

The best way for companies to help us, if perhaps they will, allow us to come in for a meeting. We can share with them the breakdown of the costs that we have for rebuilding and expansion. They can have a plaque up in their name and they can give a one-off donation for that or they can come on board as consistent donors who will be giving us a certain amount of money every month. Funds are very clearly advocated be it for salaries, be it for medicines, for animal food, for maintenance or anything else. We can share a presentation, we can send them the details of what we require and that’s how they can help us and collaborate. Another way that we can be a part of the CSR programs is through our social media. We have a very active social media platform so any sort of animal-related or for any feel-good campaigns when it comes to children when it comes to compassion, empathy, ACF is the platform that you’re looking to join hands with because we are all about compassion and empathy. And I think that’s a message that needs to be put forward more than ever into our country. And that’s why brands need to come on board to join hands with ACF.

What do you have to say about the existing animal legislation in Pakistan and what more should be done to abolish animal cruelty?

There is essentially no legislation for animal welfare in the country. Whatever little rules there might be no one looks at them or knows them anyway. They are completely redundant in the current climate. Animal cruelty rates are rising on an hourly basis. Majority of the cases we get are animal cruelty done at the hands of children or adults.

For example they might be the victims of hit and run, physical abuse like cutting off their tails or ears, throwing acid on them or shooting/poisoning them. All this is done by humans. We are breeding violence by allowing this to continue and it needs to stop. When we talk about animal right laws, this is very important because if we don’t start respecting other forms of life we will not be respecting each other.

The way to counter this is to work with experts in this field and there are very few experts. It is very important for government to join hands with organizations like ACF to actually work towards this because when we are not just talking about animal welfare, we are talking about a much bigger picture. We are talking about peace, compassion and empathy. We can start it off with animals as they are the most vulnerable in society.  According to psychological and scientific studies and based on research done across the world, animal abuse is a clear indicator that violence is present and will spread to affect humans through sexual abuse, physical abuse, partner battering, domestic violence and much more.

By inculcating a sense of empathy in children, that is far reaching in opening the mind to allow for critical thinking and learning to put themselves in the skin of another and actually walk around in it, we can learn empathy towards fellow human beings as well and the need or desire for any form of violence significantly reduces when empathy is harnessed as an all-encompassing feeling. So what we are looking at is a very long term strategic goal of actually creating a very peaceful nation and that’s why it is so important to have legislation to recognize the right of all other living beings other than just humans.

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