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).
It’s been over two years since Jill last visited the US and we in the US office were eager to get on the road with Jill and meet as many of our supporters as we could. Admittedly our travel schedule was a bit overzealous but, as Jill is never one to miss an opportunity to reconnect with supporters, we knew she’d have no complaints with the rather hectic itinerary!
Jill, Morgan and Alice with Lyn Devon and Pam Michaelcheck.
Jill and Morgan with Pam Michaelcheck on the beach at Southhampton.
Jill’s 2011 Roadshow started off on August 19, a cold and stormy summer evening in NYC. But even though thunder was booming outside and rain was pelting the windows at the Jivamuktea Café, the atmosphere inside could not have been warmer!
About fifty people had gathered to hear Jill speak of our work to help bears, cats and dogs in Asia and the vibe in the room was so friendly and positive. That was more than partly due to the setting, a wonderful vegan café nestled in the heart of one of New York City’s most popular yoga centers, and to Kevin, Jivamuktea’s manager and one of the nicest guys we’ve ever met! Also on hand was Joshua Katcher of the Discerning Brute. Joshua, who single-handedly saved the evening by both emceeing his heart out while our projector was experiencing technical difficulties and ultimately, fixing said projector, has been hailed as a “vegan superstar” by none other than Oprah.com and we were very honored to have him at our event!
The next day saw Jill and I joined by Alice, who heads up Major Gifts and Development in the US, as we headed out to the Hamptons for a wonderful luncheon at the home of Pam and Bill Michaelcheck. We had been invited there by their daughter, Lyn Devon, a top NY fashion designer and passionate defender of animals. Lyn and Pam kindly invited a group of friends to attend the luncheon in order to meet Jill and learn about Animals Asia’s program to help cats and dogs in Asia. After a moving presentation and lovely lunch, we headed out with Pam for a walk on the beach and a chance for Jill to dip her toes once again in the Atlantic. It was a truly lovely afternoon and we are so very grateful to Lyn, Pam and Bill (and their dogs Alice and Bean) for their gracious hospitality.
The following day our New York Volunteer Group hosted a wonderful afternoon at the Kitano Hotel on Park Avenue. Complete with silent auction and a delicious buffet, the event was a huge success and Jill really enjoyed meeting with supporters old and new while there. She also had the pleasure of presenting an Andrew Award for exceptional contribution in animal welfare to NY Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal. Rosenthal, who has a strong record of proposing animal welfare legislation in the state, recently co-sponsored a bill to end the sale of bear parts and gallbladders in NY. The bill passed, with some minor changes, on August 18 and we felt the best way to celebrate was by presenting Rosenthal with an Andrew award just a few days later! Our New York Volunteer group, headed up by Madeleine Truax, did an amazing job organizing this event and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Madeleine, Ye and Claudia, as well as Maya, who will soon be joining the Animals Asia team as our new US Communications Manager!
Jill and the US team present Amy Gottlief with a photo of Jasper.
While Alice remained in NY to represent Animals Asia at the wildly popular Vegan Drinks Night, Jill and I traveled on to Boston where we met with our dear friend Dr. Theo Capaldo of NEAVS, an organization that we count as a great ally in the campaign for animal welfare.
Later that evening, Jill was the guest speaker at an event organized by Evelyn Kimber of the Boston Vegetarian Society. The event, held at the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center was standing room only thanks to Evelyn. We are so grateful to her for introducing us to a whole new audience in Boston and for setting up an event at such a lovely place. The Buddhist Center, run completely by volunteers, was full of love and peace and also provided us with one of the best vegan buffets we’ve ever laid eyes – and teeth – on!
Jill had the pleasure of spending some time with one of the volunteers at the center, a gentleman who had moved from Hong Kong to Boston as a young adult. He recounted an amazing story of his transformation from an animal loving, vegetarian Buddhist growing up in Hong Kong, to an avid hunter after moving to the US. He continued to say that it was his involvement with the Buddhist center that brought him back to a place of peace where he renounced all violence to animals. It was a particularly interesting story given the focus in Jill’s presentation on the recent surge of support for animal welfare in Asia and her reminder to audiences that people in China truly care about animals just as much as we here in the US do.
Jill and Lincoln at the Marine Mammal Center.
Sharing a smile with Doree Clark after a very sucessful event.
San Francisco – Bay Area
From Boston we traveled on to San Francisco where the Animals Asia’s US office is located. Buoyed by the wonderful outpouring of support we received on the east coast we were thrilled to be back home connecting with supporters in our own neighborhood. Jill’s first west coast event was at the Oakland Zoo, one of the few zoos we partner with in the US. Oakland has a tremendous conservation program headed up by the lovely Amy Gottlief and each year that Amy invites Jill to speak at the zoo the audiences just seem to get bigger and bigger! Something truly amazing happened at this event. After Jill’s presentation, a woman named Holly approached me and mentioned that while traveling in Vietnam several years back, she encountered a bear caged behind a restaurant. The image of that bear had haunted her for years and she was desperate to find someone who could help. By sheer coincidence, Holly found a write-up in a local magazine advertising Jill’s talk at the zoo that night and decided to attend in hopes of getting a message to our Vietnam staff about the bear.
I took down all the information and sent it on to Tuan, our Vietnam Director, who told me he was leaving the very next day to go rescue a bear in the same area this woman had described. A week later he arrived back at our Vietnam Rescue Center with a gorgeous sun bear. Tuan sent me photos of the bear, I forwarded them on to Holly and received an immediate response back that yes, this did appear to be the bear she had seen all those years ago! It was a truly amazing series of coincidences and one that makes me all the more sure that things happen for a reason in this world.
The following night Jill was guest of honor at a gorgeous dinner party thrown by our Marin Volunteer Group. The event, held at Sausalito’s Stage Dor Dance studio – owned by the wonderful Doree Clark – was absolutely incredible. Doree and members of the Marin Volunteer Group had transformed the studio into an intimate, elegant restaurant complete with twinkling lights and gold trimmed china! It was an exquisite setting for an incredible evening of catching up with long term supporters of our work and meeting newcomers as well.
The Marin Volunteer group, comprised of Doree, Sylvia, Bev, Deanne, Marcelle, Carol and Evelyn did an absolutely incredible job of creating this magical event. And very special thanks to artist Nomi and her friend Molly for setting up the lovely art auction. Both Nomi and Molly are headed to Chengdu as volunteers at our Moon Bear Center in the spring where they’ll finally meet the bears they’ve already worked so hard to help!
Also at the event were our office intern Sarah, back home from college in Montana for the weekend just to attend this event, and our pro-bono Development Associate Julie who’s wonderful 365 Supporter Kits helped us raise a nice bit of Honey Money that evening.
The next day saw Jill enjoying a bit of time catching up on email in the morning and then in the afternoon heading to the Marine Mammal Center just north of San Francisco to meet with our supporter and MMC volunteer Lincoln, for a behind-the-scenes tour. What an incredible treat it was to feed rescued seals and with those big gorgeous eyes it was easy to be put in mind of our other favorite species – the beautiful moon bears.
The day after was the official last day of the first leg of the Roadshow and Jill went out with a bang at a fun and festive evening organized by San Francisco supporter Nancy Loewen in conjunction with the San Francisco Vegetarian Society. The event, held at the scrumptious Loving Hut vegan restaurant, provided a wonderful atmosphere to end on with a supportive audience, great food and the lovely Nancy emceeing the evening.
At the end of the night we had a moment to reflect on the week that had just passed and were so touched to know that people across the US feel as passionately about the dogs, cats and bears of Asia as we at Animals Asia do. It is that support that helps us get through the tough days and it is that support that we’ll celebrate when all the cages of Asia finally stand empty.
On August 30, after a lovely lunch with vegan author Colleen Patrick–Goudreau, Jill bid farewell to myself, Alice and our San Francisco colleague Jada – who expertly held down the fort at the home office while the three of us were on the road – and headed off to London where she would speak at a reception kindly hosted by Neil Parish MP at the House of Commons, before joining a panel that we sponsored at the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies Congress, co-hosted by the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine .
While we were sad to see her go we were heartened by the fact that she’d be back soon! The second leg of the North American Roadshow is set to begin on September 29 in Palm Springs. From there we’ll travel to Tampa, Washington DC, Toronto and Calgary, before ending in Banff for the international Advancing Bear Care conference.