For the last three years the NoToDogMeat team have actively campaigned against the horrific Yulin Festival in China. This year we really wanted to make a difference and have our own ‘boots’ on the ground. Our plan was to raise funds in order to send our own small team to China and, having been active in various rescues in Shanghai that year, we felt sure we could help.
Our Chinese volunteer Natalie reached out to rescuer Mrs Yang who has been widely reported in the news and in May she met our UK volunteer in Shanghai. We were sad to learn that for over 20 years Mrs Yang, a retired school teacher, had run a sanctuary without any help. She explained to our UK volunteer Sophie that not one group had supported her with funds during that whole time.
As an organisation set up to help grass-roots organisations in Asia we receive many requests for help and we had set aside modest funds to distribute during the trip to China. When Mrs Yang told us of her plight and how all the dogs in her shelter were starving we immediately gave her a grant from this fund. She told us this money would feed the dogs on basic supplies for an entire month.
We wanted to do more for Mrs Yang, so instead of fundraising to send our own team out to Yulin we decided to sponsor her and she agreed to wear our tee shirt and support our associated Chinese activists at protests.
Close to the time of Yulin we set ourselves the target of raising £5000 in a week to help Mrs Yang at that time. We dislike the idea of giving money to the butchers but we did not want the dogs to die. Our entire volunteer team set all their tasks aside and spent every waking hour telling people of Mrs Yang’s plight. We decided to use a very transparent online fundraiser – we wanted everyone to feel involved – but as with any fundraiser there are the hidden costs of Paypal, exchange rates and other charges.
By the Friday before the Yulin weekend we were delighted to have already hit our £5000 target. We quickly wired funds to Mrs Yang that day and over the next few days sent her three more direct Western Union transfers which we knew she could pick up at many local shops and venues in Yulin. We were thrilled to learn she had rescued around 500 dogs and cats and could not wait to tell our donors.
One recent source reports that other donors have contributed separately and that Mrs Yang had received over £30,000 to buy dogs by the time of Yulin. In addition to this the website Bored Panda had also published bank details which they said were Mrs Yang’s for anyone to donate to. When No To Dog Meat decides to act others follow and it is true that whenever we start a fundraiser, other groups take our lead and set up their own funds to exactly the same recipient. We are very proud to lead the way.
In the interests of transparency when we reached £50,000 (ten times our original goal for Mrs Yang in Yulin) we issued a formal press release. Surprised by the amount we had collected and mindful of just how many other similar independent rescue shelters in China are desperate for help we contacted our donors directly to ask them to consider that we share the fund with these other shelters – and the response has been very positive.
All UK charities have serious legal responsibilities when it comes to the distribution of funds they have raised. We have to show ‘due diligence’ in making sure that funds find their way into the right hands and are used for the purpose intended – in our case, helping dogs. In addition to this the UK has strict regulations regarding any sending of money abroad, in order to prevent fraud, money laundering, funding of terrorism, organised crime and so on. These considerations together with certain other practical security aspects of the international banking system has meant that never could we simply have sent a cheque abroad for the full amount collected the moment we had it – even if we had thought this was the best thing to do.
Given the unexpected size of the fund raised and the unconfirmed status of banking facilities available in the proposed recipient’s country we sought advice from the Charity Commission regarding transfer and dispersal of the funds to ensure it meets the charity and fund’s objectives. At the time of Yulin there had been uncertainty over the safe collection of the transfers that were sent and of the reliability of bank details and these aspects legally demanded of us increased diligence and caution with regards to sending further amounts. We informed the Charity Commission of the money already sent to Mrs Yang (to date it is over 20% of the total raised) the method of sending, and set down with them a timetable of action for safe completion of this project. This included establishing satisfactory banking facilities in China which would allow Mrs Yang and other agreed associates to access funds and give us complete confidence that funds will be ultimately used for the purpose intended – helping the dogs. The Charity Commission advised us that in order to safeguard dispersal of donations and ensure the intended usage at least two further visits and inspections by us to Mrs Yang’s shelter would be advisable – one this year and one next year.
Our charity WPDCMT (NoToDogMeat Foundation) aims one day to be able to pay staff to work on it’s projects full-time but, to date, no-one directly involved has ever received any wages, fees for work or payment for time (other than outside agencies such as our phone-paging service). This includes the CEO and founder Julia de Cadenet who has worked tirelessly and at great personal expense. Despite the success of the recent fundraiser this has remained the case.
In times of crisis, WPDCMT/NoToDogMeat Foundation is mandated by our legal charity objectives (https://notodogmeat.wordpress.com/our-charity/) to facilitate emergency food rations and medical treatment in shelters. In the long term, our hope is to help Mrs Yang create a new safe shelter for the dogs and for that we will really need the further help of our supporters. We are deeply encouraged that since Yulin many other rescues have taken place – including the ‘#707’ dog truck rescue in Tianjin, the home city of Mrs Yang (who was once again on the scene to help). There are many rescuers all over China just like Mrs Yang and this gives us great hope that Asia is changing.