Young people across Barbados are making a unique contribution to the Barbados Ruffugee Project – a collaboration between the Barbadian non-profit Ocean Acres Animal Sanctuary and the Canadian charitable organisation Eastern Ontario Potcake Rescue (EOPR) – the biggest ‘freedom flight’ out of Barbados and into Canada for 200 stray, abandoned and abused dogs.
The youngsters aged between 4 years and early 20s are making colourful and creative labels to tie onto each dog’s crate at Grantley Adams International Airport before the animals are gently loaded onto a special charter flight due to depart in the early hours of 29 May 2021.
“We thought it was important to send our dogs with love,” says Karen Whittaker, Founder and Managing Director of Ocean Acres Animal Sanctuary in Newcastle, St John, Barbados. “The crate labels are our youth’s way of saying ‘thank you’ to the people welcoming our rescue dogs into their Canadian homes. These labels showcase the passion of Barbados youth to make positive change.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many Barbadians are struggling financially and this has had a serious impact on animal welfare, with a momentous rise in pet surrenders, neglect and abandonment. All of the island’s shelters and rescue centres are struggling to accommodate abandoned animals. Meanwhile in Canada, there are multiple high-quality applicants for every rescue dog that is offered for adoption.
“In collaboration with other animal welfare organizations in Barbados, we intend to reduce the number of abandoned animals through a rigorous nationwide spay and neuter programme,” explains Karen. “But for now we are celebrating the fact that 200 dogs are being given a second chance at a good life.”
She adds “Engendering compassionate and caring hearts and minds in the young people of Barbados is so important. By connecting with a living creature, young people experience unconditional love and the satisfaction that comes from caring for another – this is part of the enlightenment that animals and nature bring. At Ocean Acres Animal Sanctuary, we shine a light on the darker aspects of society and turn this around into inclusive, loving kindness.”
Participants in the Ruffugee Project crate label initiative include young people from the Ocean Acres Youth Group, Nature Fun Ranch and The Codrington School, the international school of Barbados. The many thoughtful and touching messages on the crate labels reveal the kind and caring mentality of these young people as well as their empathy with rescued dogs. Representing Nature Fun Ranch, one young man Akiel Keilzz Harding, aged 22, who’s currently doing online classes at Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology , said “Whether it’s dogs or people, I believe everyone deserves a second chance.”
Messages on the crate labels include:
- “Everyone deserves a second chance”
- “From Barbados with love”
- “Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world would change forever”