Charities We Love is a monthly series featuring inspirational charities from around the world. At We Are Travel Girls we care about giving back and hope this series will help our readers learn about charities and non-profit organizations that are doing incredible work.
This month we are excited to feature Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society (PPAWS), who are helping to protect and rescue animals in Cambodia.
Nestled in the heart of the bustling city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia lies a very special place for animals – The Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society, fondly known as PPAWS. The work PPAWS does is absolutely vital in a country like Cambodia, where there are no animal welfare laws, no animal rights and ongoing daily abuse and suffering of animals across the country.
PPAWS was the very first animal welfare charity founded in Cambodia back in 2011 by an animal lover who wanted to make a difference to lives faced by animals in Cambodia. With the help of many expats and local Khmer people who all had the same passion for protecting animals, the organisation began.
The work PPAWS does not only helps animals on a day to day basis with their rescue and veterinary clinic but also focuses on long-term change through education and awareness to local communities, schools and within temples, all around Cambodia.
A Personal Experience At Ppaws
I could never have imagined that when I moved to Asia that I would end up working in animal welfare. But after arriving in Cambodia it was clear to me that this country was a hard place to be an animal.
I had never seen so many strays roaming the streets before. Cats and dogs of all shapes in sizes wandered the streets and many were injured, blind or disabled. I really felt the misery these animals as they rummaged through dumps looking for food and spending their days just trying to survive.
I’ve always been an animal lover and so a month into living in my new home of Phnom Penh, I began volunteering with an animal rescue, helping to care for animals and feeding strays and abandoned animals who were dumped in temples. My volunteer role eventually turned into a full-time job as Practice Manager at PPAWS where I helped to run the organisation and gain a deeper understanding of the world of animal welfare in Southeast Asia.
The experience was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I saw the most tragic things every day but also the happiest moments too. I really learned so much about Cambodia as a country; it’s history, people and way of life, through my work with animals.
To really give you an idea about some of the tragic events that animals in Cambodia face, I’ll tell you about my very first day. at work. Someone had brought in a dog in a tuk-tuk, covered in blood. He was a pet and had been stolen from a garden, tied to the back of a motorcycle and dragged along the street before somehow escaping.
Dog snatching is common in Cambodia, with both strays and pets as victims. The reason behind this is to fuel the dog meat trade, a common delicacy in Cambodia of which I had no idea existed until I saw charred dogs’ bodies on BBQs in restaurants as I walked to work each day.
On that first morning, I couldn’t believe how the team shot into action. Unfortunately, I would soon learn that they were used to seeing extreme cases like this, and I really believe that their professionalism, calmness and love for animals saved that dog’s life that day.
Although I saw cases like this on a daily basis, I also got to experience happy moments which made all the work so worthwhile! When a litter of one-week-old kittens were abandoned outside our centre, our team hand-reared them using milk bottles.
There was never a dull moment with so many animals coming in and out of the vet clinic every day. Dogs were walked, tiny puppies were running around and we even had hedgehogs, reptiles and birds visit for treatments. It was so rewarding to be greeted by loving animals every day and even more rewarding to see them leave to their new loving forever homes.
One of my fondest memories is seeing one of our oldest dogs, who had no back legs due to an injury, finally run around with her other dog friends after some engineers designed and created a custom wheelchair for her! I also met the more wonderful people and formed deep friendships with many local people who had a strong love for animals and joined us in the fight for better animal welfare in Cambodia.
The unique aspect about working in animal welfare was the lack of access to veterinary care which makes helping these animals even more difficult! The veterinary professionals at PPAWS were of the first generations of Vets in Cambodia and seeing this team grow during my time there was absolutely extraordinary.
With limited funds available to PPAWS, the team performed incredible surgeries and health care for animals brought to them with very little resources and equipment. I have never met more motivated people who cared so much about these animals.
They would often work 12 hour days, rarely took time off and received a local salary correlating to the organisation’s funds. Constantly eager to learn, several of the team were studying at night and on weekends to work towards higher veterinary qualifications were only just becoming available in Cambodia.
Experience For Veterinary Professionals
PPAWS partnered with Vets Beyond Borders several years ago and every few months, welcomes Vets, Vet Nurses, Vet Techs and Vet students from around the world.
This proved to be imperative to the inquisitive and intelligent team who learn an incredible amount from these volunteers, from how to conduct complex surgeries to save many lives they haven’t been able to save, as well as using their limited resources to the best of their advantage.
Even more exciting is the new resources that these volunteers bring which are unavailable in Cambodia such as medical books and good quality surgery tools.
Solving The Animal Welfare Problems From The Ground Up
The problems for animals in Cambodia are many. The thriving dog meat trade, overpopulation of strays, disease, abuse and spread of rabies, which causes hundreds of animal and human deaths every year, make animal welfare a big challenge.
But things are changing. PPAWS is working to solve the problem of animal welfare right from the roots.
By educating local people and schools about the importance of animal health, such as spaying/neutering animals, which has been a controversial topic in a Buddhist country, it is hoped we can change the way Khmer people think about animals. PPAWS is educating monks on how to care for animals who are dumped at Pagodas and rescuing vulnerable animals from the streets to find loving new homes.
Importantly, PPAWS provides veterinary services at low or free cost to animal lovers with low incomes to ensure their animals are properly cared for. On Mondays, free rabies shots and free neutering encourages people to catch local strays around their area and work towards ending overpopulation, disease and rabies.
But it’s not just Phnom Penh animals that PPAWS are helping. PPAWS have been travelling around Cambodia since the organisation began, providing mobile vet clinics to the depths of the countryside where thousands of animals have no access to veterinary care. Every month the PPAWS team pack up a van with their supplies and visit islands, jungles and tiny villages to help as many animals as they can.
Creating long-lasting, positive change can only be done if we begin from the roots and that is exactly what PPAWS is doing with it’s approach to animal welfare and which is what I believe makes them such a unique animal welfare organisation.
How Can You Help?
The Phnom Penh Animal Welfare Society is a beautifully unique place in this world, providing a glimpse of hope to so many suffering animals.
Volunteer At Ppaws
If you are travelling through Cambodia, why not offer a few days of your time to volunteer at PPAWS?
They could always do with extra hands to keep the place clean, feed the animals and the best jobs…walking the dogs and playing with the cats, many of whom can be nervous of humans after their former life on the street. In this way, you will play a key role in these animals’ lives to prepare them to find their forever home and trust humans again!
You might also get the chance to visit a Pagoda with the Vet team and assist in caring for the animals that they are treating there, as well as speaking to Monks about animal welfare.
If you are a more creative person, PPAWS would love your help in skills like photography, videography and art to brighten up our centre. If you are a Veterinary professional and up for a challenge, PPAWS will always welcome the chance to learn from you as you will undoubtedly learn from them too.
Volunteering with PPAWS will give you a unique and extraordinary experience of Cambodia where you can meet local people and help with real issues in a country perhaps very different from your own.
If Cambodia is too far away to get to, you could think about running a fundraiser to raise vital funds for some new equipment to help the Vet team do an even better job.
PPAWS relies solely on donations received from animals and the small profit they earn from providing veterinary services to owners with pets. They are in desperate need of things like an oxygen machine, a dentistry kit and surgery tools and this is impossible without increasing donations.
More funding would also mean PPAWS could open more veterinary clinics and rescue shelters to help even more animals around the country.
Maybe you work for a veterinary clinic or supplies business that could donate essential veterinary products and supplies to PPAWS which would otherwise be impossible to acquire. Or you may work for a business that would like to create a partnership or a one-off donation to support the work of PPAWS!
Spread the word! The more people who know about this fantastic organization means that more awareness about animal welfare in Cambodia can be shared and ultimately improved on in the future.
The Last Word
I have no doubt that slowly but surely, things will begin to change for animals in Cambodia and I am forever grateful for my experience with PPAWS in watching them change the world for those without a voice.
PPAWS and their community thank you tremendously for your support!
Do you know of an inspirational charity or non-profit organization?
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! And if you’d like a charity to be considered for this series please submit their story via our Contribute Page.
Read More About Volunteering
- Read all Charities We Love articles
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- Daktari Bush School & Wildlife Orphanage
- Volunteering At Soy Callejerito Animal Shelter, Peru
- Volunteering At An Elephant Nature Park
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