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Il Gattaro di Aleppo. Application for finance.
*** Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel — "I regard animals and humans in the same light. All of them suffer pain, and all of them deserve compassion."
Who is Il Gattaro di Aleppo?
Before the war, Alaa was an electrician in East Aleppo. When the war began, he had the chance to flee Syria, but decided to stay in Aleppo and help. Alaa is NOT a member of any fighting group or a political activist. He is only a civilian. Alaa believes in love and peace, and cares for ALL living beings. Alaa is now 42 years old and works as an ambulance driver for Syria Charity, an NGO with headquarters located in France. Alaa's passion is caring for animals, especially cats that are the innocent victims of war. In 2012, he began feeding abandoned and stray cats in the streets using the money he earned as an ambulance driver to care for them. Alaa‘s dream was to have a cat refuge for stray cats (and some dogs as well). That dream came true at the end of 2015 when Alessandra Abidin entered his life.
The group Il Gattaro di Aleppo
Since Alaa came to know Alessandra, and because of the group Alessandra founded (Il Gattaro di Aleppo), Alaa was able to open his cat refuge (The House of Ernesto) and do many more amazing things to help animals and humans in East Aleppo. Ernestos was named after one of the favourite cats of Alessandra. The group Il Gattaro di Aleppo has two Facebook pages, one especially focused on group members (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ilgattarodialeppo/) and the other for a more general public, called „Nobel Peace Prize to Alaa“ (https://www.facebook.com/mohammadalaaaljaleel/).
The Il Gattaro group now has over 23,000 members who support Alaa in spirit and by donating money if they can. Some of these members regularly donate to help pay the day to day costs of the sanctuary. They have generously given money for several special projects (among which the replacement of 4 ambulances) and all are very much dedicated to Alaa and his work.
During the siege of Aleppo, by storing food, Alaa made sure there was a constant supply of food for the animals which enabled them to be fed during the siege. More than 170 cats (domestic and feral) were fed, their wounds were taken care of and cats were saved from the streets after bombings. The digging of a water well by Alaa supplied both residents of the Aleppo neighbourhood and the cats of Ernesto’s sanctuary with a supply of fresh water (the regular water pumps kept being bombed). Also, Alaa organized small parties for local children. During and after these parties the children had the opportunity to interact with specially selected (friendly, domestic) cats. In this way both the cats and the children had opportunity to love and be loved, trust and be trusted. This benefitted both animals and children.
During the siege, the situtation grew worse. Food was more and more scarce and shelling and bombing increased. Four of Alaa’s ambulances were destroyed by bombing over the course of time, food became more and more scarce and food prices rose to unprecedented levels. Despite this, Alaa managed to keep feeding his cats. Unfortunately shortly before the evacuation of Aleppo the sanctuary was bombed and lots of cats were gassed by Chlorine gas bombs, or hit by shrapnel and killed. Alaa was forced to leave the city of Aleppo along with the entire civilian population.
Since then, Alaa has found a new place in the countryside of Aleppo province where he is working hard on a recently purchased building, to turn into another animal sanctuary which will be the first of its kind in the Middle East. Alaa carries on in his employment with Syria Charity as an ambulance driver. With help from members of our group, Alaa also helps and supports not only the animals. He also helps child refugees, the elderly, the poor and the disabled. Last month Alaa was caught in the car bombings in which over a 100 children and adults were killed. He was lucky to escape with his life – but once again our ambulance (this time one especially designed for transporting animals, the cat-ambulance) was destroyed.
In the new sanctuary, approximately 25 cats are already in residence and more cats arrive almost daily. Lately we have taken in 20 small pups too. To house dogs on a more permanent basis, the sanctuary needs further adjustments. The group members recently have donated towards buying a plot of land near the sanctuary. Work has begun to build a unit to house the dogs and a children‘s playground called the Garden of Hope. When we have a place of shelter for the 20 dogs we have at the moment, we will look further ahead to starting a rehoming programme.
Caring for these animals of course requires the services of a veterinarian. It has taken years to find such a veterinarian, (most of them left Syria at the beginning of the civil war) but last month Dr Mohammad Youssef joined the team at Ernesto's Paradise (the name of the new sanctuary). The vision and main goal of Alaa now, is to equip a veterinary clinic, where the local population can start to bring their domestic pets for care and to educate them about the benefits of neutering and spaying. Our goal is to offer free support and veterinary care for animals owned by residents of the Idlib and Aleppo areas. Many people here have pet animals but they often have neither the funds nor the knowledge to properly care for them. Offering the possibility of free medical care and education will be a great help in improving the welfare of these animals. We aim to help the population care for all domestic animals, not only cats and dogs. This week a pet turkey and a pet rabbit were brought to Ernesto’s Paradise for help and Dr Youssef provided the necessary medical care for free.
We now need to prepare and equip a clinic for him and be able to pay for the drugs and medication that are going to be needed. We need to pay him a monthly salary so he becomes a permanent member of Alaa's staff.
Alaa furthermore employs people from the local area to help in the cat sanctuary, keeping the areas clean and hygienic and helping at feeding times. These people also need to be paid for their time. Offering work to the local population raises the profile of the sanctuary among the residents of the area.
In the future Alaa hopes to employ the services of a child psychiatrist who can counsel and support some of the refugee children from the refugee camps and to use "pet therapy" to enhance the lives of the animals and the children. This will reinforce his desire to educate the Syrian population about the love and care that pet animals need.
Over the last few years, next to a large number of animal related websites and blogs which have taken Alaa to their heart, renowned international media have also covered the story of Alaa. In 2014, the UK Daily Mail was the first to publish an article about Alaa’s efforts. Media that has covered Alaa’s story since then, include, among many others the BBC, NBC, al Jazeera, Newsweek, Corriere della Sera, David Wolfe, the Huffington Post and the Dodo. The Dodo publishes updates about Alaa and the sanctuary every few months. The video by David Wolfe has over 26 million views and was shared an amazing 341,279 times. An online search for Alaa, the catman of Aleppo brings up more mentions than we can count. Some links can be found here:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2770503/The-real-hero-Syrian-civil-war-The-ambulance-driver-spends-savings-feeding-orphaned-cats-Aleppo.html (first international coverage)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgFiwMoytM8 (Aleppo sanctuary – BBC news)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E3qbgm79vM (the Dodo – rebuilding)
https://www.thedodo.com/aleppo-syria-cat-sanctuary-reopens-2288368832.html (the Dodo - rebuilding)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2FKNdTBNkY (NBC news)
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cat-sanctuary-aleppo-syria-bombed_us_582c8c1ae4b099512f802121 (Huffington post about the bombing of the Aleppo sanctuary)
https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10153840285006512&id=102515706511 (David Wolfe)
As mentioned before, the land to build the kennel area for the dogs has been secured and the building work has started but we are going to need to pay for the rest of the project to be finished and Alaas important work to begin.
We need to finance:
Finalise the building of the Garden of Hope, the vets clinic and the dogs home, estimated at 50000 euros.
Wages for the local work men working at the sanctuary and the clinic, to feed the animals, clean the sanctuaries and exercise the dogs, estimated at 20000 euros per year.
Dr Youssef’s salary, estimated at 15000 euros per year.
Equipping of the veterinary clinic estimated at 30000 euros to install a fully functioning clinic.
Purchase of drugs and medicines. This will be difficult to estimate because we cannot yet know the amount of pet animals from the local area that we might treat but estimated at 12000 euros per year
Purchase of bedding, toys, collars, food bowls and a stockpile of food. Once again, because of the ongoing war in Syria it is hard to estimate this cost.
All this is necessary:
To continue with the provision of good quality food for our animal occupants.
To never turn away any animal that is in need.
We are heavily reliant on the good will and donations of our Facebook group Il Gattaro di Aleppo but we would like to secure enough funding to finish the work on the Garden of Hope, the vet clinic, the dog sanctuary and to pay for the vital skills of the veterinarian Dr Youssef.
We know we will need to find the sum of 50000 euros by the end of June. This sum is to finalise the work on the Garden of Hope, build a purpose built veterinary clinic and dog area to house the dogs that we currently have living at Ernestos.
A fund raiser has gone out to our group members who are already enthusiastically donating. We think we will have a minimum of 15000 euros by the end of May.
However, we need to acknowledge that the civil war in Syria is ongoing, and the constantly changing social and political landscape in Syria makes it almost impossible to plan ahead. The constant fluctuation in food prices for the animals and the building work is hard to plan for.
Despite these difficulties, we expect Ernesto’s Paradise to be a success, not only in the near but also in the more distant future: our group has proved to be a stable one, willing to support the project in good and bad times. There is an almost unlimited support for Alaa’s work and we don’t doubt that the group members will continue to offer their help, financially, in spirit and, when the war ends and sending necessary supplies. Apart from that, Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel has shown that he never gives up and finds solutions for challenges even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Thank you for reading our bid for finance and I hope you will look upon us favourably and help us achieve a dream that has never been realized in Syria before and to enhance the lives of both children and animals that have suffered, and still suffer, from the ravages of a 5 year civil war.
If you need any more information about Ernestos Paradise, the Garden of Hope or Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, please do not hesitate to contact :
Il Gattaro di Aleppo