THE SHE FACTOR: Laying her life on the (fe)line
Carol Ann Geldenhuys started out in the fashion industry before her love of animals took over her.
Dubai - Carol Ann Geldenhuys' soft spot for cats has taken her to a purr-fect career
Dubai is an amazing city and you will always find people who are very willing to step up and help and be part of the solution not the problem, says Carol Ann Geldenhuys, founder of Kittysnip.
"In the 20 years that we have been here, I've seen lots of progress with women empowerment in the UAE. Recently I had the honour of being invited by the government under our registered group EAWS to participate in the Second National Conference on Animal Welfare. It was exciting to see so many strong capable Emirati ladies involved. These women had a voice and were making a difference. I never felt I couldn't be successful in Dubai as a woman. I think a lot of it boils down to your confidence and self-belief," she says.
Carol's venture works to trap, neuter/spay and release or arrange adoption for abandoned and neglected cats in the emirate. Carol, born in Scotland and grew up in South Africa, began a very different career combining two of her passions - fashion, and people's wellbeing and development - for a well-known lady's fashion brand as training and development manager.
After moving to Dubai 19 years ago, Carol continued her foray into the fashion world by consulting and training leading retailers. However, it was her love of animals that began to dominate her life, rescuing her first cat the very day she landed in Dubai in 1999.
In 2006, Carol started to work tirelessly to set up a programme in Dubai to address the stray cat population, which had started to get out of control. Several like-minded individuals banded together with the aim of neutering 50 cats per month while also rehoming and fostering kittens and vulnerable cats. Kittysnip became a registered charity in 2016 and still neuters over 50 cats per month and now takes in ill and injured cats for medical treatment. From January 2018 until September 2018, alone they neutered over 425 felines.
Kittysnip is currently trying to raise funds to address monthly veterinary bills, which range from between Dh35,000-Dh45,000 a month, recruiting new volunteers, foster homes and desperately seeking donations of cat food.
Carol shares the day she rescued her first injured cat: "I started off helping the odd stray cat from there, finding homes for them with friends and family. However, as Dubai grew and more people arrived, so did the stray cat population. When I realised this problem was much bigger than me, I started recruiting - or should I say begging and pleading - for other volunteers to help. And that's when Kittysnip was created."
"I now have an amazing group of cat lovers from all walks of life helping me; I could not achieve any of this without them. We realised that the only way to slow down this vicious circle of thousands of sick and unwanted kittens from being born on the streets was to start sterilising and neutering every street cat we came across. Our mission is to Trap, Neuter and Return [TNR] for a better tomorrow. We are currently neutering around 50 cats per month. Unfortunately, we're somewhat restricted by the funds we have available, otherwise we would be able to increase this amount, especially in areas like Deira and Satwa where we pick up cats in shocking conditions. Some have literally had every bone broken in their little body due to abuse and/or car accidents," added Carol.
At the conference, Carol was able to share their story.
"At this stage we are neutering 50-plus cats a month. I would like to increase this to 200 plus but to do this, we require more funding, which is unfortunately one of our key issues. We will be targeting three key areas: Deira, Bur Dubai and Karama. The cats we find in those areas are in shocking condition. Many have been knocked over, abused or are starving. Another important element is education and as such we are planning to go into schools and teach animal welfare to students."
So how does Carol balance her home and work? "My son, who is now 22, lives overseas. And I have the most amazing husband who supports me and is fully in what I do. But I make sure that when he is not travelling, we spend quality time together, and chat about topics other than cats," concludes Carol.
DOs and DON'Ts
. Have an end goal. Something that truly excites you and then stop at nothing to achieve it
. Don't bring family issues into the workplace
. Find a strong mentor that you see as a role model
. Dare yourself to dream big
. Don't think you have to go it alone and don't be afraid to ask for help
. You need passion and confidence. And never stop asking yourself tough questions