Turning Your Compassion into Action

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January
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For many of us, this time of year is a time of reflection, and a time for action. It is an opportunity to make a conscious decision to make a change, to do something different and/or make a commitment to become more engaged in an issue that matters to us.

For many of us, that issue is animal welfare. Thanks to social media, there is no shortage of causes to become educated on, and a multitude of opportunities for us to affect change. But how many of us actually transform our compassion into action? As the founder of Paws for Hope, I am very aware of the power of social media to bring attention to issues and organizations. I have often credited Facebook for our achievements in such a short time frame, and have wondered out loud how the civil rights movement happened without Twitter. How did everyone know Ms. Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus? The question is not meant to be flippant, it is actually quite philosophical and one that I have been mulling around for quite some time now. For as amazing as social media has been at bringing awareness about global issues right to our kitchen tables, and despite the fact that often these issues create a great deal of sorrow and anger for us, it can not be said that this has translated into action. In fact, I would argue that while we are acutely more aware of the suffering and injustice that occurs throughout the world than my parents were in the 1950s, we are far less likely to physically do anything about it.

As the Executive Director of an animal welfare organization who aims to build sustainable animal welfare in BC I am often tasked with mobilizing people, mobilizing communities, and/or mobilizing the rescue community to get everyone behind an issue, support a cause and to advocate for change. And while sometimes it can be so inspiring, most often I feel like the girl that no one invited to the party but she came anyway because everyone seems to love her on Facebook and Instagram.

Case in point. Our Pets Are Not Products Program is a very popular campaign, and we have a strong coalition of rescue organizations backing the movement, but when we set out to demonstrate outside of pets stores that sell animals last spring, the largest number of demonstrators we convened was 28. Photos of us demonstrating, however, nearly went viral on our social media pages.
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This phenomena is not unique to us, and I am sure not to be the first person to write about it (nor will I be the last) and so begs the question, How can we turn your compassion into action?

Perhaps 2015 will be the year where we all commit to volunteer, advocate and donate towards a cause most important to us. Just imagine what would happen if every single one of us did? I do believe that the vast majority of people do not want other people and creatures to suffer, and do not approve of the injustices that occur on a daily basis. I believe for most of us, it is quite overwhelming and the shear magnitude of the issues make us wonder how we could possibly make a difference. But for those of us working in the trenches and/or supporting those in the trenches, I can tell you with absolute certainty I have seen “one” person make a difference on a daily basis.

Like Hilly from Homefinders Animal Rescue who spent much of her New Years Eve day trapping a stray cat who was skin and bones, and getting it to Maria from Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association who spent the night at their operations centre with all the other kitties in need.

Or Sarah H from the Coquitlam Animal Shelter who spends much of her off time taking the dogs in the shelter for long walks and adventures.

My list could go on, and if the world was full of Hillys, Marias and Sarahs, it really would be a much better place to live.

So this year resolve to be that “one” person.

Happy New Year

With much gratitude to all the “ones” and in anticipation of many more to come,
Kathy Powelson
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