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).
After a two-year break – Jill returned to Europe, visiting Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland. There she met supporters and spread the news about the revolutionary changes that have made their way in China within the last few years, and which have led to a very different picture of the state of animal welfare there.
The first stop was in Luxemburg, where we met our very loyal and committed friends on 22 October. About 200 supporters had come to the Centre Culturel in Céssange, to celebrate the 10-year jubilee of “Aktion Hilfe für Baeren in Not” (the Moon Bear Rescue).
Not for a second did we feel like “strangers“, just the opposite – it felt like a family celebration, if a BIG family celebration. We were surrounded by people who have supported us for such a long time now and who have adopted 25 bears, for whom they care and sponsor additionally each year, and have built a bear house for 12 of them as well.
Denise Kirchen once again had done an amazing job and she had – again – lots of busy friends who helped her and to whom we want to say a heartfelt “thank you” for this lovely event that was prepared with so much love… and perfectionism! There was a giant tombola (lucky draw) and Denise had prepared a fantastic cake buffet, too. A big birthday cake – on occasion of the 10th anniversary of Animals Asia – with, of course, 10 bright candles as its highlight – and which tasted delicious. And of course, looking at the twinkling candlelight, was Andreas Goldknecht, who had joined us from Saarbruecken, together with his wife Jutta in singing a birthday song for the Moon Bear Rescue Support Group of Luxembourg.
And when Andreas then went on singing the well-known Paul McCartney song “Black Bird” and changing it into “Black Bear”, you could see now and then a tear in the eye of a supporter, because we all still had in mind the pictures that Jill showed in her presentation and we all knew, that there was not a single person in the room that would not care for the plight of the moon bears so many miles away.
On this occasion we would love to say a big thank you to Mrs Mentgen-Wirtz as well, who supported us so generously over the past years and who saved a place in her heart especially for Animals Asia – thank you so much, dear Irene.
And, perhaps because of that, all the framed pictures of the Luxembourg bears that Jill signed found a new owner immediately and – we are sure – a very special place in their homes.
When Rita Zuccha handed over to Jill a cheque signed on 2,000 euros the evening had another highlight. Rita collected this sum throughout the past two years to hand it over to Jill in person – which she did! A huge thank you for this donation and, of course, a very warm thank you to Denise and all her lovely friends who helped her to organise a wonderful first evening of our roadshow and such a warm welcome. It was simply perfectly done! This evening, together with Mrs Zucca’s donation, brought us around 10,000 euros – a lot of money for a lot of honey for our bears. I am sure they will be delighted. ;-)
The next day we went on to Graz – but with some difficulties because of the fog that made our travel slow. But finally we arrived at Graz in the evening of 23 October, early enough to admire this beautiful city and feel at home at once.
On Sunday, 24 October, we moved on at 10am, straight to Arche Noah, an animal-welfare organisation and animal shelter, to meet Magister Stefan Moser, who arranged our visit in Graz. President Oster, head of Arche Noah Graz, was there too to greet us warmly and again we felt at home with friends and took the chance to enjoy some animal therapy and spend some time with cats and dogs. And so did they! There is nothing (almost!) to top the grateful blinking eyes of a purring cat or the enthusiastic expression in the face of a dog who knows that he is the focus of all your attention.
But there was even more – the ORF team (Austrian TV) of “tierzuliebe“ was there to do a piece on Arche Noah and the visit of Animals Asia to Graz. We had met that team already 2 years ago at Gut Aiderbichl, and they did an interview with Jill regarding the latest developments in the work of Animals Asia in China and the development of animal welfare there. Soon this piece will be broadcast in Austrian TV and of course we will let you know in advance!
At lunchtime, we met Christa Blümel from Kronen Zeitung in Graz – an “old friend” of Animals Asia, who visited Chengdu first in 2005 and reported on the arrival of more than 40 bears back then…
In the afternoon at 3pm, we finally met our Austrian supporters – more than 100 people, who saved their Sunday afternoon to meet Jill, Christina and I and listen to a presentation of progress. Here again we met old friends and made new ones. And the vivid questions of the audience once again showed how important it is to meet our supporters personally and keep that constant dialogue we have going.
And of course we had a bright highlight here as well – the girls of “Team Tierherz”, an animal-welfare group founded by five girls, who sold their hand-baked muffins to collect some funds for the bears. At the end of this afternoon they proudly presented Jill with a cheque for 600 euros and, additionally, a wonderful picture of a bear they had painted! What a day! We all fell in love with Graz that day, this wonderful city and our so special friends in Austria, who made this Sunday a very special day for us all. Again – our heartfelt thank goes to Stefan Moser and President Oster of Arche Noah in Graz!
The next day, Monday 21st, found us at 6am at the airport in Graz hoping, that this time there would be no fog delaying our flight. And we were lucky and arrived late in the afternoon in Zurich, a bit tired but fine.
In the evening we met our longtime friend Katharina Buettiker, member of the board of the Swiss animal-welfare organisation Animal Trust. Last year she had invited Jill to speak at Animal Trust’s yearly event.
This year we are even more grateful to Animal Trust and, of course, Katharina Buettiker for another opportunity, to present Animals Asia and our bear rescue in Asia to the Swiss public, asking them for support. Animal Trust made the impossible happen and we can only say a warm thank you in the name of our bears for this outstanding event.
Dear Katharina, who introduced us not only to Swiss media people but who enabled such an exquisite and glamorous event and evening! What a night! And it started with a special video greeting of one of the world’s most famous pianists and extraordinary woman – Hélène Grimaud! Words can’t tell how impressed Jill, Christina and I were to see and hear what she said about Animals Asia and our work… Please see our German webpage soon for that message.
But first we were invited by Mrs Hortense Anda-Buehrle and meet with other guests at her home. These included Dr Thomas Wagner, President of the Swiss-Chinese Society and former mayor of Zurich as well as Mr Liang Jianquan, Generalkonsul of the People’s Republic of China in Zurich. Zurich is a twin city of Kunming in the Chinese province of Yunnan, where you can find bear farms still today. But who knows, perhaps we could light a spark to convince Kunming to follow the example of 20 bear-farm free provinces in China – wouldn’t that be wonderful? We also met Professor Felix Althaus, Dekan of the Vetsuisse-Fakultaet and Professor Hans Lutz, Prodekan of the Vetsuisse-Fakultät, who both showed huge interest in the work of Animals Asia and the development of animal welfare in China.
Then, finally, in the evening at 7pm we all met again in our venue, the Restaurant Metropol. Very excited and a bit nervous, because this was the first time Jill had been given a chance to hold such a presentation for a Swiss audience and more than 200 people had accepted Katharina’s invitation, waiting for Jill’s presentation…. I have to admit, I was impressed, when I saw that stage and all these people waiting there for the start….
So, after Katharina did a warm greeting Mrs Doris Fiala, entrepreneur and Nationalraetin in the Swiss Bundesversammlung, followed with a speech that was about animal welfare – of course! After that Monika Fassnacht, well known and loved Swiss moderator and Jass expert (a Swiss game) announced our latest DVD, “Moon Bear Rescue – A decade on“ and from then on off we went! Following the DVD Jill started her presentation and then answered questions from the audience.
And all the time Monika Fassnacht went on with her moderation, tireless in asking our Swiss guests to support our work and the moon bears – dear Monika, you made this evening such a success with your fantastic moderation and in your own very charming way – a big bear hug for you!
To make things short – this Swiss event was the most incredible end to our roadshow. The Swiss people fulfilled in the best way their fame for being generous and open to offer support for beings in need. There were 16 people that were willing to adopt a bear so that in the end – up to today! – the Swiss event enabled 150,000 euros of funding for our bears and our work to end bear farming in China. This is the highest ever sum of donations Animals Asia ever raised with an event!
So I want to end my “report” on this roadshow with a very big and very warm and heartfelt thank you, from Jill, Christina and I, to all our friends and supporters, the “small” as well as the “big” ones in Luxembourg, Austria and Switzerland and let you know how important your help is for our work and what a difference you make for the animals in Asia. It is only because of your generosity that we can work onsite and enable those changes that make us so proud – a decade on. Thank you!