India changes people. If you don’t believe me, just ask Deb Jarrett. She was an American, turning 40 and needing a change her life. She loved to travel, so she volunteered with a charitable organization called Cross Cultural Solutions and signed up for a few weeks in India. Fast forward nearly a decade later and she is running her own nonprofit, rescuing animals from the harsh streets of India and an important part of the Dharamsala community. Dharamsala is probably best known for being the town of residence of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
I met Deb while on a trek in the Himalaya Mountains on our way up to Triund. It was hard to miss her big radiant smile and 3-legged dog named Jack. After only a 5-minute conversation we became friends. Her commitment and passion for helping others, whether they be 2-legged or 4-legged beings, inspires me to be a better person.
The beginning of Dharamsala Animal rescue
When she first came to India for a few weeks as a volunteer working with women and children, she was astonished at the mistreatment of animals, in particular, dogs. There was a poor little sickly one in the corner of the temple where she was working and no one seemed to care about it. Deb, being a woman of action, contacted a vet for assistance, and well the rest is history.
She went back to the U.S and within just a few months started a 501 (c)(3) animal rescue. For 3 ½ years she traveled back and forth between the two countries doing what she could, but eventually after seeing the mishandling of funds, corruption and the need for her constant leadership, she moved to India for good.
Dharamsala Animal Rescue employees 14 people and has 2 to 3 volunteers. They have a mobile rescue unit so that when people in the community see an injured animal they can immediately mobilize, head to the site of the injured animal and hopefully save its life. They help around 15 to 20 dogs per month that are hit by cars. They also assist large animals, like cows, but don’t currently have the facilities to care for them in house. Deb dreams of one day having some land where they can rehab injured cows and other large animals.
I asked Deb what the biggest challenges have been in starting and running an NGO in India. It sounds like almost everything has been a challenge, whether it be the many months it took to just open a checking account, finding people she could trust or teaching het team to think for themselves and stop blindly following others. It all boils down to overcoming cultural differences. India is big on bureaucracy and red tape. They are taught that anyone in a senior position (financially, appointed position, caste or elder) should be respected and not questioned. That is quite different from the American approach of collaboration and critical thinking.
The solution to most of the organizations challenges, and many of the deep rooted problems in India, really begins with education. DAR is committed to educating the community on how to treat animals and what to do if they see an injured one, or if they get bitten. For example, India has a serious problem with rabies and many people still believe that drinking some holy water from a temple, or bathing in the Ganga, will cure it. Their ABCAR program (Animal Birth Control and Anti Rabies) helps to sterilize street dogs and educate the public on the avoidance, cause and treatment of rabies.
Their goals, needs, and how you can help
I asked Deb about the future of DAR and their goals. She said that 2016 was a big year for them. They moved into a new building and started the community center in it, along with an education/outreach program. They also got a blood lab of their own and a desperately needed generator. Now they need to keep funding and supporting that growth. They need financial donations and contributions of goods and services from the community. They also recently started their International Adoption Program allowing people from the U.S and Canada to adopt dogs from their shelter. Currently they have 5 dogs in need of a permanent home. If you can help or are interested in more information, please visit their website: http://dharamsalaanimalrescue.org/ or their Facebook page.