The compassion factor

CLAW has served Syferbult with animal and humanitarian support for a few years. PHOTO Blessing Chiriseri

Dr Blessing Chiriseri, veterinarian with IFAW’s Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, recently had the opportunity to spend a week at sister project CLAW in Johannesburg. His main mission was to observe and learn from CLAW’s well-established mobile outreach programme. What he experienced was, in his words, “emotional” and “amazing”. --Christina Pretorius

On the third day into my visit to CLAW something amazing happened and I thought I had to share. Cora Bailey, CLAW’s inspiring founder, me and two of her volunteers took a drive into the rural MagaIiesberg (about 90 minutes northwest of Johannesburg).

We were going to Syferbult, an isolated informal settlement, which CLAW has served with animal and humanitarian support for a few years.The living conditions in this area were very sad for the people let alone the animals, definitely an eye opener on my part.

The main purpose for our visit was, of course, the animals, but one could never ignore such despair and only concentrate on the animals. Besides, to treat a sick animal one needs a history from the owner, so there is no way of running from it.

It was through this inevitable interaction that we met a family of six (dog included) who were living in a rundown tin house.

The last born member of the family was a lovely two-year old boy who had suffered third-degree burns on most of his back. Due due to financial and other circumstances he had been attended to only once by a medical practitioner 10 days earlier.

The dressing that was placed on the wound on that visit had changed colour with dirt and was stuck to the wound, and it clearly very uncomfortable for the little guy.

In the midst of my emotional turmoil at all I was seeing, the distress of this little fellow undid me.

Then I witnessed something remarkable.

The women I was with simply took charge.

Here I was the doctor, albeit an animal doctor, and with simplicity and no fuss they went to work to help the boy.

This was obviously something they dealt with on a daily basis.

One of the ladies travelIing with us was a human nurse so she carefully managed to undo the bandage, clean the wounds and re-bandage with some of the supplies we had with us.

It was only after this act of kindness that the boy’s parents opened up and became more receptive to our core purpose, to visit “their sick animal”.

Before we left Syferbult we managed to help a lot of animals in the area.

However each case we attended to came wIth a human story (rape, HIV-Aids and the list goes on ) but the beauty of it all was how each case was handled: every person was treated with dignity and was given the time to tell their story, in my opinion this has created a huge trust net between the people of Syferbult and CLAW.

The most important lesson learnt by me for our work at Mdzananda Animal Clinic is compassion and patience.

The Mdzananda team is in a process of creating new mobile veterinary outreach units. Interactions with animal owners will really help us understand why the animal situation in and around Khayelitsha is the way it is and help us to understand the depth of the responsibility that we carry.

With all the talent and different personalities Mdzananda hosts, the journey into the future is very exciting.

I do believe the Mdzananda team is geared up to continue the beautiful story the clinic has been for the years it has been around.

In conclusion, I would lIke to thank Cora and her team for the amazing work they do on a daily basis, and generosity of IFAW’s supporters for makIng such work possible at CLAW and Mdzananda. 


For more information about IFAW efforts to help the dogs of South Africa, visit our campaign page.

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