November 25, 2014

4 Truths from the Streets of Bali.

Bali Dog

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Mahatma Gandhi

A few months ago I found myself walking down a dirt road in Bali, making the usual Indonesian small talk with the people I met along the way.

Where are you from? How long in Bali? Married or no?

I was settling into these familiar exchanges, when one conversation took a turn I didn’t expect. The man I was talking to proudly informed me that he worked for BAWA, the Bali Animal Welfare Association.

Of course to make money, he drove cabs and guided tourists and and washed laundry and a host of other things. But BAWA was what he was excited about. In his free time he worked for the organization, using a borrowed truck to drive around the island picking up homeless dogs and cats, taking them to veterinarians, or transporting them to new homes.

My curiosity about BAWA had been stirred in the past, as I’d heard bits and pieces about the operation here and there. What was this? I wondered. Animal welfare in Indonesia?  Worrying about the fates of stray animals was a luxury I had always assumed citizens of third world countries couldn’t afford.

I was wonderfully wrong.

Indonesia is full of places that glitter with what might be actual magic, and Bali is certainly one of them. Yet it is also so very weighted with struggle and hard realities. I think that’s why I continue to be surprised, time and again, by the frank compassion and uncomplicated kindness of people who could potentially (and justifiably) say I have bigger things to worry about.

The work of BAWA is primarily carried out by local Balinese, who feed and medicate stray animals, organize spay-neuter clinics, and work to educate their communities about the issues facing animals from dogs to cats to elephants to orangutans.

These video clips from BAWA never fail to remind me of a few simple truths:

1. Changing the world isn’t always as complicated as we think it is.

2. Being of benefit to others is often a natural extension of doing what we love.

3. Kindness can be shown to all of the souls we share this planet with in so many different ways, depending on the opportunities we uncover on our singular journeys.

4. Animals make life sweeter. Simple as that.

The first video follows the BAWA street feeding team as they make their way around various villages, feeding and providing medication for homeless Bali dogs:

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In the second video, an activist named Dena talks about the importance of the work BAWA does, comparing the importance of Bali “heritage” dogs to that of traditional markets, ceremonies and other treasures of culture that make Bali what it is. He also shares his own story about living with cerebral palsy, and the impact that animals have had on his life:

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” ~ Anatole France

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Author: Chrissy Tustison

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Flickr: Caroliq

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