Volunteers converged on the Ark Animal Centre in northern Johannesburg on Sunday, 8 May, to join a Going the Extra Mile (GEM) initiative to get the tails of dogs wagging again.
The visitors put themselves to work cleaning kennels at the centre, bathing the dogs and puppies, and spending time with the staff responsible for the day-to-day running of the animal shelter.
Play Your Part, a Brand South Africa programme to promote active citizenship, has partnered with GEM in its events to uplift disadvantaged communities and improve the standards of living for all – animals included. GEM’s work is coordinated through an app that rewards people for doing good.
Tracy Otto, the founder and manager of the Ark Animal Centre, said “I think spaces like GEM are fantastic because they’re actually building awareness. For us to get word of our work out there is difficult, but now there’s another outlet which is GEM.
“It’s motivating people that wouldn’t normally come here for two or three hours. They see what we’re doing and they realise that there is a need and a way for them to help.”
ARK ANIMAL CENTRE
Otto said the main aim of the home is to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome puppies that had been abandoned or brought there by owners unable to care for them.
“At the moment I’d say we’ve got about 80 puppies here. Two weeks ago we had about 140, so we’ve managed to home quite a lot since then.
“It’s very hard to work here sometimes because you see a lot of things that you don’t want to see,” she said. So what makes it worthwhile? “It’s the end result: when you see a puppy that has come here from a terrible place and it leaves with the best family – and it’s healthy and happy. That’s what drives us, and you can’t walk away from that.”
GOING THE EXTRA MILE
The GEM social development drive aims to get the public to help NGOs. It also fosters a sense of community and makes a positive difference to people’s lives.
GEM offers incentives for volunteers through its app. They earn “gems” for every good deed, which can be redeemed for airtime, prepaid electricity and even movie tickets.
Volunteers also have the option of donating their gems to the cause of their choice, helping in the day-to-day running of organisations like the Ark Animal Centre.
Lisa Wilkinson, one of the volunteers who heard about the Ark Animal Centre through GEM, said she first joined GEM’s activations when she helped raise money for Gift of the Givers during relief efforts after the 2014 xenophobic attacks.
“From then on I’ve tried to do a GEM event every weekend that I am available,” she said. “I try and do as much work with GEM as possible because it’s an amazing initiative.”
Kimberly Japp, another GEM volunteer at the animal shelter, said even the rewards could do good. “The best part is that you can donate your GEMs to the project that you’re working for, so it doesn’t have to go to you, it can go to them.”
GET INVOLVED WITH GEM
Encouraging active citizenship among South Africa’s people is one of Play Your Part’s key objectives. By partnering with GEM and other social initiatives, the campaign looks to increase its reach and drive more citizens to take action and offer their time, energy and resources to help wherever they can.
For more information on how to get involved in your community and to keep track of the activities in and around your area, visit the GEM website or download the application from the Apple App store or the Google Play Store.
PLAY YOUR PART
Are you playing your part to help improve the lives of those around you or the environment? Do you know of anyone who has gone out of their way to help improve South Africa and its people?
If so, submit your story or video to our website and let us know what you are doing to improve the country for all.