“Big Hearts” for a big country

18.12.2014, Russian Maecenas

DSC_7783Anna, 3 years ago you decided to open a charitable foundation. Please tell me, living in London, how easy is it to manage a charity, which is dealing with the problems in Russia?

In Russia, there a lot of people who have responded and are willing to give their time and effort to help animals for free, but they lack the resources and knowledge about effective animal welfare practice. This is needed to ensure that their actions were long-term nature and have long-term effects.
In addition, the charity has a great team of volunteers – Russian expats in London, without them I would not be able to develop these activities.

Tell me please, what are the main areas of activity in your charity?
There are several key areas we focus on: making neutering affordable for animals in shelters and for pets of those on low incomes, humane education through lessons in schools and social ads. We also develop and lobby for effective laws to protect animals, which, unfortunately, are absent in Russia.

“Big Hearts Foundation” is only concerned with stray animals or you promoting humane treatment of animals in general?
The charity is focused on animal welfare as a whole. Our latest project involves assisting a rehabilitation centre for tigers and bear cubs after the spring hunt in Khabarovsk, this centre is the only one of its kind. In November, our team has personally visited the centre and was convinced that, unfortunately, to date, the centre receives small donations from individuals, which is not enough to support the rehabilitation and maintaining of the Amur tiger population. The Foundation does everything possible to attract the attention of local authorities to this problem.

You also mention a cartoon, as the most effective method of a more humane upbringing in Russia. Could you elaborate on this project?
Unfortunately, in our country, child’ cruelty towards animal has frightening proportions. We were wondering how to teach children responsibility in a non-preachy way, how to convey the idea of a humane and responsible treatment of animals? Our charity, in collaboration with Soyuzmultfilm, decided to start creating an educational cartoon series that can, in an entertaining form, bring kindness to children’s hearts. The charity was able to finance the first episode of the cartoon, but we need to create another 9, so we decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds, which will soon be published on  Western crowdfunding sites.

That means you want to reach not only Russian, but also English donors and patrons?
Yes, British donors – would offer a great opportunity to grow the charity and ability to introduce new projects to help animals. In UK a responsible attitude towards animals has been developed for more than 100 years! In addition, people here have grown up watching child cartoons and films such as Bambi and Born Free, which developed a sense of compassion and responsibility towards the weaker members of society, in other words – animals.

How much do you think philanthropy is developed in our country? Who are your major donors?
The philanthropy sector in Russia is growing, the middle class is engaged and helps to the best of their financial ability. In almost all cases however, their efforts are directed towards helping children, elderly people and low-income citizens. Animal welfare is not getting enough attention, in my opinion. It is difficult to convey to the public and the business elite the importance of promoting the humane treatment of animals. We can endlessly surprise with the brilliance of our Western type facades, but one only needs to look at the masses of hungry and suffering animals on the streets of our cities, which remind people more of a  “Potemkin village”, when it becomes the true face of today’s Russia becomes visible – It is well known that the character of man is not judged by his attitude towards stronger, but his attitude towards the weaker, in this case, towards animals. How can our great nation allow in the 21st century monstrous cementing of live kittens in apartment bloc basements?

In conclusion, could you say a few words to your potential donors?
I believe that in the post-Soviet space, when talking about animal welfare, lack of a sense of responsibility and lack of knowledge of what can be done – are two biggest problems that need to be addressed right now. We can choose to ignore this, but these problems permeate all spheres of life and hamper the development of solutions to many social and economic problems.
First communications between children and animals in the correct form – is the first encounter of the child with a sense of responsibility for the weaker. Our work is so important that I stopped my career, left a prestigious job in the City and fully dedicated myself to the fund. I would not take this step if I wasn’t convinced that all is not lost and the situation in Russia can and should be changed for the better. I love my country and I believe that each of us can contribute to a better future for her.