The We Exist Foundation Envisions a Better Future for our Indies7 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
India has an estimated population of 35-40 million stray dogs. Have you ever wondered how the needs of these furry friends are met? Especially during the pandemic when the whole world came to a standstill, when streets were left marooned, and everyone moved indoors?
In pandemic times, and other normal days, there is one person who believes that it is her call to save, serve, and heal dogs found on the streets.
Meet, Tejshree Savara, an art lawyer, a canine trainer, and the founder of the We Exist Foundation. We Exist Foundation is committed to catering to the needs of street dogs. Let’s get to meet this trailblazer, shall we?
How did the We Exist Foundation come to be?
In the summer of 2017, I took the decision to quit my role as an Art & Antiquities Lawyer in one of India’s most prestigious law firms. I had been practicing law for almost 7 years at that point. In August 2018, while accepting changes that came along with being newly married & the loss of my grandmother – I launched not one 𝐁𝐔𝐓 two 𝐀𝐋𝐋 𝐇𝐄𝐀𝐑𝐓 organisations. @weexist.in : a small company which designs and manufactures homegrown pet products 𝐀𝐍𝐃 it’s sister NGO arm @theweexistfoundation which, as you know, aims to improve the lives of the street and abandoned animal community in India through its various initiatives. I have often received criticism from individuals who questioned my putting aside a career in law to do what I do today (I still provide legal advice btw and the fee is directed towards the Foundation) – 𝐁𝐔𝐓 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐝 𝐦𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐧 𝐚 𝐝𝐞𝐚𝐟 𝐞𝐚𝐫/ 𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐲𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡 𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐫𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐀𝐂𝐂𝐄𝐏𝐓𝐀𝐍𝐂𝐄 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐦𝐲 𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐬𝐚𝐯𝐞, 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥 𝐢𝐬 𝐍𝐎𝐓 𝐚 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐢𝐜𝐞 𝐁𝐔𝐓 𝐚 𝐜𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠.
The setting-up of both these organisations was at one point of time an unattainable dream for me. I am grateful to have finally found the courage to give my calling the 𝐒𝐓𝐑𝐎𝐍𝐆 voice & platform it deserves.
What does a day look like at the We Exist Foundation?
Well, no day at the We Exist Foundation looks the same! I am the founder, rescuer, fundraiser, social media manager and the whole team at the foundation. Ours is a volunteer run organisation where young talent offer their skill sets and support to our cause.
I see so many instances of abandonment. Even during adoption, I see people struggling to understand their dogs. I want to help people be better humans to the animals they have chosen to raise.
A little more about the programs at the We Exist Foundation…
We run an SOS Care program to rescue street dogs. In every rescue operation, I am personally involved. We also conduct sterilisation programs in and around Delhi NCR. We also help in the island of Diu and in Calcutta. We also help in vaccination programmes, and we also help with adoption. Most of the puppies we rescue are found in distress.We rehabilitate and re-home all the puppies we rescue. We also have a feeding program where we support feeders across the country. We have supported 75 feeders on ground. We have also fed 50,000 animals through the lockdown.
Apart from our regular programs, we also run different initiatives throughout the year, like the Water Bowl initiative where we encourage people to take cement water bowls from us. We fundraise, purchase cement bowls, and make them available in localities free of cost for street dogs to use. We have been doing this for four years every summer.
If you spot one in your area, share a picture with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will share it with Tejshree!
We also run vaccination programs where we focus on saving puppies from viruses.
Why is it important to sterilize dogs?
Sterilization is a process by which the ability to reproduce offspring is curtailed.
Most people think that the street animal population is such a nuisance. This leads to abuse of the animals at the hands of humans. Sterilisation is the only humane way to control the street-dog population. And I don’t mean in it in the sense that dogs should not exist or cats should not exist. As individuals, it is our responsibility to save lives of animals who have been hurt by human action. We strongly believe that the life they live on the streets is not the life they should lead. In big cities and small, these young puppies are subjected to so much trauma.
Sterilization also reduces chances of cancer in dogs. In terms of male dogs, it helps in controlling aggression too, if it is a part of their genetic fabric. There are also researches that prove that dogs have no desire to mate. This is an effective form of population control that is compassionate. The biggest thing for us is knowing that there are no more puppies that are being born and dying because of external factors. They don’t deserve it.
How can kids who don’t earn money yet help out?
I think the best way to include children in our mission is to introduce them to education exercises on compassion and empathy. The spaces we work in can be very traumatic for someone young because of the condition we sometimes find animals in. Therefore, I will not lead with taking children on rescue missions. I think rescue takes psychological preparation too. I will leave the choice to the child after he/she has been prepared for a visit to a special needs dog.
I think it is important to help children see the world in a way other than what society propagates. There are more compassionate ways to interact with animals, there is a way to be beyond what the world teaches them.
You’re also a lawyer, what does it mean to Practice art law?
The Savara foundation is my family’s art foundation. I am a Trustee and the Director of the foundation. I do practice art law but only as an independent consultant. Whatever money I get from these freelance projects, I put them back into the We Exist Foundation.
What’s your message for young kids growing up in India?
(With inputs from Malvika Dwarkadas)
(Trailblazers 2.0 is a bi-monthly column where we feature inspiring adults who are doing great things, in their own way)
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