years ago this April, Jill Robinson first walked onto a bear bile farm. On that day in April 1993, Jill could have walked away, but she chose to act and do what she could. Today, you also have a choice. If everyone reading this donated just US$20, it would pay for the care of over 150 bears at our China sanctuary for a full year. Please help us celebrate 20 years of progress. Donate US$20 today (or whatever you can afford).
Jill and Tuan’s visit raises over £50,000 for our bears, cats and dogs
Jill, Virginia McKenna and Tuan at the presentation by Born Free and Animals Asia.
Hotel Manager, Glenn Hallam, Tuan, Jill, Virginia and Will Travers, CEO of Born Free.
Jill is presented with a generous donation by our Dutch Support Group in Nottingham.
Supporters get updated during the final event of the roadshow at Woburn Safari Park.
Two very special, and very large, hosts show supporters around the park.
Despite the fact that Animals Asia’s UK team decided, in view of the current global financial crisis, not to conduct a full-blown roadshow this year, we still managed to keep Jill and Tuan Bendixsen, our Vietnam Director, busy for 10 days while raising much-needed funds for the bears, dogs and cats.
It was a great treat to welcome Jill back to the UK and to introduce Tuan to various supporters, both old and new, around the countryside, beginning with a joint event held with Born Free Foundation at the Tower Hotel on 9 June. With Virginia McKenna as Animals Asia’s Patron and with Born Free giving generous annual grants to the charity, it felt only right that we should hold a joint event so that each charity’s supporters had the opportunity of hearing from the founder of the other.
Born Free supporters learned of the early beginnings of Animals Asia, the creation of the Dr Dog, Friends….or Food and Moon Bear Rescue campaigns, and were brought right up to date with news of the latest dog rescue in January and bear rescue in February.
Tuan then went on to give an overview of the situation regarding bear farming in Vietnam and the recent opening of additional facilities at the Vietnam sanctuary. Animals Asia supporters were delighted to hear from Virginia about the beginnings of Born Free and the stories of individual animals rescued from zoos all around the world and taken to the safety and comfort of the Shamwari sanctuary.
Undaunted by the start of the tube strike that evening (and the threat of being stranded at Tower Hill, guests all enjoyed the generous hospitality of the Guoman Tower Hotel and a delicious buffet prepared and served by its very helpful staff. Animals Asia is especially indebted to manager, Glenn Hallam for his incredible kindness. Together with the hotel’s support, and the generous bidders at the auction – brilliantly conducted by Will Travers – substantial funds were raised for both charities to continue their vital conservation and welfare work.
Sadly, the tube strike and the ensuing chaos on the capital’s roads the following morning meant that Jill and Tuan were unable to get down to Cornwall as planned. However, the roadshow restarted with a vengeance on Saturday, 13 June, when the team arrived at the premises of Dick White Veterinary Referrals in Six Mile Bottom, near Cambridge.
Professor Dick White and his wife Christine visited the Chengdu sanctuary in June 2007 to carry out vital surgery on some newly rescued bears. Since that time, they have been untiring in their support for Animals Asia’s work and recently named one of the surviving bears from the February rescue.
Dick and Christine held a very popular Open Day at their premises during the afternoon, complete with dog agility classes, fire engines, face painting and ice creams. Each stallholder then incredibly kindly gave their takings to Animals Asia. That evening, the Whites held a lovely informal event in a marquee in their grounds, with drinks and canapés, before guests were invited to listen to presentations by Jill and Tuan.
A riotous auction followed with a huge number of items donated by local people and businesses. This was an extremely happy day, which raised a total of just over £14,000. Again, the Animals Asia team were bowled over by the generosity of the White family, the staff at the Referral Unit and many local friends and clients and would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone concerned for all the effort put into making our Roadshow such a huge success.
Sunday 14 June saw the team head to Nottingham for a support group workshop. This was the first such event and Animals Asia’s way of repaying the enormous debt owed to all our wonderful support groups, up and down the length of the country, who spend so many hours either standing in all weather conditions rattling a tin on our behalf, or plotting weird and wonderful methods of extracting funds from the public for our work!
Even dedicated support groups from Holland and Italy came along. We all spent a very happy day, giving our chief supporters the chance to really grill Jill and Tuan about all details of our work in China and Vietnam and the UK team for more ways they can help us!
The event ended with the presentation of a large cheque to Jill by the Dutch group and by the presentation by Animals Asia UK of four awards to groups or individuals that have really gone above and beyond the call of duty in the past year. These were Steve Ashcroft and Julie Stock, business sponsors of the year, Linda Burr – individual supporter of the year, David and Sarah Chilvers – Bright Idea of the Year and Lee Gibbins and her West Somerset Outstanding Support Group of the Year.
Additional awards were given to Brian Bicknell for being prepared to don the Moonie outfit anytime, anywhere and to Mary Holden for her very generous and brave decision to give up her place on the forthcoming Vietnam trek due to hip problems and donate it back to raise further funds.
Monday 15 June saw Jill and Tuan travelling to Twycross Zoo to give a presentation to the Twycross Conservation group, and also taking the opportunity to meet some of the zoo’s very well-looked-after animals, with Jill falling hopelessly in love with the meerkat community.
The following day, Jill gave an inspired talk to lucky pupils of Hall Grove School before conducting an interview for a local radio station, and then it was on to the final event of this year’s roadshow, at Woburn Safari Park on Wednesday 17 June. There, thanks to the very generous support of Lord Robin Russell, guests were given the fantastic opportunity of walking with two of the park’s Asian elephants during their afternoon stroll through the forest and down to the lake for a quick dip, before a nice refreshing mudbath.
We all felt very privileged to be in such close proximity with these two beautiful ladies. In the evening, guests enjoying a wonderful dinner at Woburn’s beautiful Sculpture Gallery, before generously bidding during the evening’s auction, kindly conducted by Martin Roberts from BBC’s “Homes under the Hammer”. This was his second act of support for the charity within a month as he had just nominated Animals Asia as his chosen charity to benefit from his appearance on “Celebrity Cash in the Attic”. Again, we are indebted to him for the support and awareness he brings to Animals Asia.
Animals Asia UK has now sent Jill and Tuan safely on their way back to Hong Kong and Vietnam respectively, but were thrilled to host Tuan on his first visit to the UK, which was so much appreciated by so many supporters, and to welcome Jill back to inspire, once again, all she met, with renewed fervour and determination to bring an end to bear bile farming and dog and cat eating.
Jill will be back in the UK briefly at Christmas when we hope to repeat the hugely successful Christmas gala at the Bloomsbury Theatre, thanks to the generosity of Neal Foster and the Birmingham Stage Company with their production of “Skellig”. Please keep an eye open for more details of this event in our autumn UK Newsletter.