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Old friends and new at UK Roadshow

Our fundraising roadshows are always super busy, but the buzz of meeting our wonderful support groups, old and new friends, and raising much-needed funds for the dogs, cats and bears of Asia makes them 100 per cent fun and worthwhile.

As always, our UK team of Dave, Nicky, Gill, Lara, Fiona, Sue and Eileen worked their socks off in the months and weeks before, organising venues, ticket sales, auction and raffle prizes, and making sure that everything was smooth and professional throughout. 

Tuan, our Vietnam Director and I rolled into the UK, and on Tuesday 9th June, we joined Born Free and its founder – my heroine and patron of Animals Asia UK – Virginia McKenna, in the first presentation of the 10-day show. Virginia and I had not seen each other’s presentations beforehand, but we both showed the slide of us together when she came over to Chengdu to see our beautiful bears.  

In the early days of struggling with the decision to start Animals Asia in 1998, I asked Ginny [Virginia] what she would do – to be told “just do it”. And so welcoming her on site to meet Jasper, Banjo, Delaney and, of course Ginny bear, was a profound and very proud time for me. 

Virginia and I also both spoke in our presentations about the “individual” – about how people’s respect and help for these animals can inspire a unique connection with them, and ultimately with the species they represent.  This took me back again to when I was six years old, seeing Virginia in “Born Free” with Elsa the lioness, and feeling a compelling connection with the animal world. This film would steer me to the decisions I’ve made and ultimately, my life with the bears. 

That night’s event, like the rest of the shows, was filled with the most wonderful atmosphere. Every show saw friends engaged together, re-affirming our promise to the animals; of ending bear farming and the consumption of dogs and cats.  

Later, on a glorious Sunday, we had our first official support group meeting, which brought people together who had been tirelessly raising awareness and funds, now sharing their experiences and discussing how we move ahead. These people are the lifeblood of our campaigns – like supporters everywhere across the world – who give us the wherewithal to go on. 

Other special events included a wonderfully “highbrow” day at Dick White Referrals where veterinary surgeon Dick White, his wife Christine and daughter Jenny held an outdoor extravaganza of stalls and events, before an evening’s presentation and auction in a beautiful marquee. 

Dick, his family and staff have been so generous to the bears over the years – coming out to help surgically at no cost to Animals Asia, and raising funds to name and sponsor their own bear – Dick – who is recovering today from his abuse on a bile farm. 

Next, an evening at Twycross Zoo saw our presentation to their supporters and Board. This was organised by Chief Executive of the Zoo, Suzie Boardman, who operated on farmed bears in our care back in 1995. 

A fun morning assembly – inspired by the passion of teacher Jenny Lavery – the next day at Hallgrove School saw a sea of wide-eyed faces excitedly promising to help bears thousands of miles away. We also took some tricky and hysterically funny questions that only a four-year-old could ask. 

Finally to the Woburn event, inspired by our longtime friend Lord Robin Russell, who kindly took Tuan and I out to lunch before we prepared for the last show of the tour.  That evening saw UK celebrity and another longtime friend, Martin Roberts of BBC’s “Homes under the Hammer”, gently cajoling our supporters to join him in bidding for some beautiful auction items so generously donated by kind contributors across the UK. 

The time passed too quickly and Nicky wrote a wonderful update summarising each event and highlighting the generosity of our friends – our Animals Asia family – in the UK. These wonderful people offer the faith and funding we need to continue breaking open cage doors and giving animals in Asia their voice. Please click here to read Nicky’s roundup.

I can’t end this blog without saying a huge thanks to our very special UK supporter, Lee Gibbins. Here’s Lee receiving her much-deserved Outstanding Support Group Leader Award during the roadshow.

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