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First Person Dispatch: Volunteering for Animal Rights in Greece

Narrative Activism
by Stephanie Downs Jun 22, 2009
This week, I depart for Greece to volunteer with animal welfare groups along with five other strong yet unusual candidates. We aren’t veterinarians or even animal welfare experts. We are the types who normally suit up every day – marketing executives, physicians, and even a Wall Street analyst.

We are a group brought together by inside/out, a unique adventure travel company that provides humanitourism™ trips for people who want to volunteer on meaningful international projects while pursuing active adventure.

We will be spending the majority of our time in Ioannina, in Northern Greece. Animal welfare in Ioannina has been a hot topic lately due to continuous poisoning of stray animals in the town.

Poisoning is just one of many atrocities allowed in Greece. Hanging is a common practice for disposing of animals no longer needed, especially hunting dogs. Just last month, five dogs were hanged from an olive tree, four bundled together and one by itself. The dogs were hung in such a way that their paws barely touched the ground. The vets who visited the crime scene estimated that the animals experienced eight hours of torture before dying.

To fight cruelty and help strays, small grassroots groups are cropping up all over Greece. Many buy food and pay for veterinary services out of their own pockets, help to re-home dogs both locally and abroad, and some are even opening small shelters on their own properties.

Fortunately, young people are taking an interest in the animal rights movement. Organized protests are starting to be utilized and a local TV channel now airs an animal welfare program.

To do our part while we are there, we will spend much of our time working on feeding stations for the massive stray population and providing hands-on care to animals in shelters to prepare them for adoption. We’ll also do community outreach, distributing educational materials on sterilization, anti-cruelty practices, and responsible pet ownership, as well as producing a demonstration with local activists.

As we travel to different to Ioannina, Konitsa, Papingo, and Kavasila, all in the Zagoria region, we will connect with locals. I am excited to meet all these wonderful people who dedicate their time to improve the lives of the animals. Between each of these volunteer experiences, we will be white water rafting, kayaking, and trekking between the villages some days.

What makes this trip more unusual is that the five of us have never met. But we share a common bond– a love for animals– and we refuse to turn a blind eye to the injustice occurring in Greece. We refuse to go on with our daily lives like nothing is happening.

We want to get out there, get our hands dirty, and make a difference far beyond this 10 day trip. I am certain lifelong bonds will be formed and with the collective knowledge of this group of power-hitters, new ideas will be created.

Community Connection:

Interested in other ways you can volunteer to improve the lives of animals? Read about Mexico’s Todos Tortugueros turtle rescue project and Thailand’s opportunities to volunteer for the protection of elephants.

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