By Donna Collins
IF you could judge a person’s character based on their compassion for animals, then Madelaine Strydom would earn herself a place in heaven, based on her unwavering kindness and dedication towards helping underprivileged animals surviving the harsh Swakopmund township life.
Just like most women today Strydom juggles motherhood, work and the demands of her daily routine coupled with her newfound status of being an ‘ouma’. But nothing gets in the way from the demands of being one of Namibia’s most active role players in the rescue and welfare of township animals.
Strydom was the co-founder of the non-profit ‘Feed-A-Paw’ Project, which provides ‘meals on wheels’ for hundreds of starving township animals living in the poorest of conditions. She joined forces with her young daughter Michelle, who is also a passionate animal rights advocate, and together they have performed miracles – literally.
What started out as a mission to feed hundreds of animals at least twice a week has escalated to saving animals subjected to extreme cruelty, starvation, disease and suffering. And with poverty on the rise, there is a severe shortage of food for even most families, let alone the dogs which are left to fend for themselves foraging around the filthy rubbish tips for scraps.
Strydom’s feeding days start in the morning with food transported on the back of a bakkie, which winds its way between the shacks, from one end of the sprawling township settlement to the other. Over 30 kilogrammes of maize meal is cooked up every week, which gets mixed in with vegetable peels and left over food donated by shops and restaurants to fill four huge cooler boxes for each feed. The mission is to help feed as many animals as possible and they go through at least 20 bags of dog pellets a month as well.
As the settlement grew, so did the animal population, and Strydom has since doubled up as a saviour for dogs who have been run over, riddled with mange, injured or are too ill to walk. She provides free medical care to the owners through the Swakop Vet Clinic which runs their donation account.
Depending on the severity of the illness or the wound, the vet bill comes to an average of N$3 000 a month, but this doesn’t include major hospitalisation if a dog needs an operation, or mange injections which is donated by a local vet every Thursday, or the sterilisation.
With no state animal clinics in these townships, Strydom’s phone number has become a hotline for pet owners who call her endlessly for help as the people have no one to turn to. Her days can be filled with countless trips back and forth to the vet to treat anything from stab wounds to chronic illness.
“We will continue working with these animals for as long as the project is running, and our aim is to educate better on pet care,” said Strydom. “People must become more aware of the needs of their dogs, which need food, water plus shelter and not to be tied up in the hot sun,” she explained, adding that she hopes that the children will learn something from this.
Raising funds, donations and food through her Face Book page, or by regularly standing outside one of the large Swakopmund supermarkets with fliers and collection boxes, is one way Strydom raises awareness and funds to help support this cause. The Feed-A-Paw team will also be in Henties Bay at the community centre from December 22.
“We rely heavily on funds and donations with the costs mounting up as we take on more animals,” she added, saying that her family funded the project out of their own pocket for the first few months before they received any donations.
The Feed-A-Paw project also works closely with the national charity drive Have-A-Heart sterilisation campaign to prevent the suffering of unwanted litters in the townships. This is another deserving project of praise, which Strydom and Michelle have been involved with the selection process, which has seen hundreds of township animal s spayed a n d neutered through this campaign this year.
“Don’t abandon your animals over the festive season as they are there for you the whole year round,” was her Christmas message to everyone.
The Feed-A-Paw Facebook page has all the details where a financial donation can be made into the vet account or how people can get involved.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015