Save Our Strays is Spreading Love and Awareness
The colossal problem of stray animals in Lebanon is not new, and with the escalating economic crisis more and more pet owners are abandoning their pets and releasing them into the dangerous traffic-ridden streets. These poor animals – mostly dogs and cats – rarely survive for long on their own if they are not looked after. We are grateful to all the amazing animal shelters in Lebanon doing their best to accommodate as many animals as they can. Thankfully there are also many kind-hearted incredible individuals who go out of their way to regularly rescue and help stray animals. We met one of them recently and we wanted to share her heart warming story….
22-year-old Rayan Akil was always taking care of stray animals, going from one neighborhood to another rescuing strays and delivering them to animal shelters or foster families. She would also provide food, water and basic first-aid to any furry creature that came her way. Six months ago she left her job in customer service and decided to devote all her time to the welfare of neglected pets. With some on-line research and the help of donations she developed a range of colourful tube shaped food and water containers. These tubes are made to be securely placed on any pavement or side street (they can be easily fastened onto a fixture such as a pole or tree bark) for stray cats to come and eat and drink out of them. The first batch of feeding tubes were placed all over the busy southern Beirut suburbs of Dahiye a month ago. Rayan chose Dahiye to begin with because she felt this densely populated neighborhood needed the most awareness for looking after strays. “Strays are mostly neglected here and often die from car accidents, poisoning or starvation,” explained Rayan. “By providing these food/water stations in the streets we wanted to also raise awareness among the residents so they start to think about the welfare of animals and co-operate in our mission to feed them and hopefully take care of them in a more holistic way.”
Rayan does regular rounds each day to fill the tubes with cat food and water. The tubes have a diameter of four inches and are made especially for cats. Occasionally birds fly down and drink water from the tubes too. The tubes are placed as a pair: one for food and the other for water. The next step for Rayan is to develop larger tubes (8 inches wide) to be placed for the stray dogs. Rayan explained that once she starts to get more donations, she will start producing them. To raise awareness and to get more supporters and donors, Rayan launched an Instagram page and called her initiative ‘Save Our Strays.’ She is also helped by volunteers and her real life partner, Taha Saad, who is a passionate animal lover and rescuer like her.
Rayan explained that since installing the food tubes, some municipalities and plenty of residents have been reacting favorably. “Random people have been looking after the tubes regularly and topping it up with food and water, appreciating the importance of this service,” explains Rayan. “People from the area have become so co-operative. There are less cats feeding on the trash bins too.”
Rayan will soon be installing more feeding tubes in these other Beirut neighborhoods: Ain el Remmaneh, Ashrafieh, Badaro and Mar Mkhayel.
Rayan admits that on rare occasions, people have stolen the food in order to feed their own cats. However, she is not upset by this at all because this means other needy cats are being fed which is also a positive outcome. However, she is most proud of the awareness that is growing among people to start caring more for the stray animals and helping out within their communities. On some of the tubes in Dahiye there is a message in Arabic, a quote from the sacred text of Islam. “We put it as a message to those who may want to vandalize or steal it; kind of to trigger a conscience in them,” explains Rayan. So far, however, the tubes are not being damaged overall and if anything it’s the contrary. “People are looking after these tubes, topping it up and really getting what they are all about. So we are very pleased with the general response.”
The tubes for cats are being made in Lebanon and cost 20 US dollars each but if Rayan can produce them in bulk, she gets a discount from the supplier. She has been approached by many people who want to pay for them to be installed in their neighborhoods, after her initiative went viral (both in the mainstream media and on social media) since she launched on September 20. The tubes are all placed in a ‘safe’ spot away from cars. Rayan also appoints a volunteer who lives in the area so there is a maintenance person for every feeding station. “I do my daily rounds to clean and top up the tubes but the person in charge is constantly making checks,” explains Rayan.
Rayan is also working on another project which is to eventually establish her own animal shelter. She and her partner have rented a house and a plot of land in Al Bennay (Aley district), which they plan to turn into a shelter and also a boarding house for pets in order to generate income to sustain her pet saving mission. Once her shelter house is finalized she hopes to officially register her ‘Save Our Strays’ organization and be able to attract more volunteers, partners and donors to expand her mission.
She also hopes to set up spay stations (for neutering the animals) to help control the exponentially growing stray animal population. The most rewarding aspect of this project for Rayan is seeing how people’s perspectives have changed so far towards the stray animals. “People are starting to see these roaming animals as important living beings. They are aware that they need care and protection. If we can galvanize change in people’s perspectives towards animals, we will have kinder people. We can build a better society, one cat and dog saving mission at a time.”
If you want to know more about Save Our Strays or even want to volunteer or donate (donations can be made with Paypal or OMT) you can reach them via their Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/saveourstrayslb/ or you can send them a WhatsApp message on +961 709443181.
Well, that is it from us. We hope you liked this story and if you have any comments please share them with us as we always love to hear from you. Bye for now!
References: All pictures have been provided by Save Our Strays