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Hong Kong event under the stars

I first met Jane in May 2012 and it was pretty obvious that I was talking to an absolute powerhouse of a woman who was successful in business, devoted to her family, addicted to her 17 dogs - and utterly focused in her help for the animals of the world.

janeHer tenacity was as compelling as it was infectious and I realised very quickly on that this determined, big-hearted girl was going to be a major supporter and ambassador for our bears. Her visit to Chengdu just a few weeks after we met, saw her not only coming to see the bears, but also popping along to the local dog rescue centre just an hour's drive from our base.

bacdropWithin days of leaving China, Jane had begun making plans to hold a fund-raising event in Hong Kong, and looking in to how to adopt 2 dogs from Qimeng Dog Rescue Centre. One plucky female Shih-tzu had been determined to catch Jane's attention during our visit, by climbing vertically up a three metre chain link fence and jumping over the top on to the ground. This was repeated over and over again until Jane could stand it no more. Not surprisingly, it worked, and "Ming" is now residing in the lap of luxury in the loving arms of Jane's mother and father in the UK. The other dog, Jack, is equally happy - and now living with one of Jane's friends in Spain!

nanning projectHer idea of putting on a gala dinner in Hong Kong began to grow last year after holding three incredible events in both Hong Kong and the UK - with friends who had been hugely supportive of her passion for the bears and our work to bring bear farming to an end. One project especially caught Jane's eye - as we embarked on our most expansive - and expensive - project to date; converting a bear bile farm to a sanctuary in Nanning, Guanxi Province, China, and rescuing all 130 caged and "bile-tapped" bears.

bearTableAnd so "The Nanning Project" was born. Jane's wonderful and, it has to be said, very patient husband, was immediately on board and together they began to plan on holding Hong Kong's biggest fund-raising event to help China's farmed bears.

group3-gardenThis past weekend saw their house generously opened to over 320 guests who arrived in Shek O, to see the most remarkable transformation of their garden into a beautiful dining area under the Hong Kong night sky.

tablesTwinkling lights above, over 30 tables decked with the most exquisite arrangements of natural bamboo, tea lights, decorative wooden cages spilling out with nature's beautiful foliage, and a huge stage ready for the action and important fund-raising of the night. Guests were set to enjoy the most delicious vegetarian courses that included the names; "Bamboo dreaming", "Natural Habitat", "Broken Bars" and a sweet treat dessert course, "Joy of Freedom". Divine wine, champagne, vodka and tequila so generously donated by incredibly kind sponsors, saw the evening flowing with happy smiles and generous wallets.

menuInspiring the audience to help break the bars and rescue the bears, were Crystal Kwok and Joyce Lee who had written and produced a song: "Until Cruelty Ends" - and had organised a live performance with Joyce and enthusiastic children (four of whom were Jane and Max's - Beatrice, Josephine, Leonie and Claudia) who melted everyone's hearts.Encouraged by their parents, the children had learned a complicated subject well - and sang with gusto and determined voices of the plight of the caged bears, who would experience "sunshine across their faces, and days made for play", with the help of all those in the audience breaking the bars.

kids 1The accompanying video that they'd spent exhaustive hours producing could not have been more appropriate for the words, and for the night. A back drop of children playing on the beach - in the sand and sea - which then moved on to our rescued bears playing in their cool swimming pools and rolling in the grass. Not a dry eye in the house, and a rapturous applause at the end.

kids 2Jane's wonderful speech had the perfect balance of sharing her experiences of our sanctuary, and the bear farm in Nanning, urging everyone to dig deep, with a lovely injection of wicked humour to lighten the sometimes sombre mood too. Max was his usual generous self - kind and thoughtful throughout, and making sure that everyone felt welcome, special and loved.

groupThe atmosphere was electric as Jane and fantastic MC, Bernie, kept everything on track and continued in their hugely-focused role of rousing everyone to help our work - with donations being asked for both rescuing the bears and building the bear house they needed to live in too.

group1Then it was on to welcoming world renowned singer, and Jane's friend, Sophie Ellis-Bextor to get the audience on their feet with her globally popular songs: "Murder on the Dance Floor", "Heartbreak", "Groovejet" and her latest release, "Wanderlust" that has recently rocketed up the charts.

stageThanks to Jane and Max's fantastic technical team, to their generous sponsors of fabulous food and prizes, to the amazing Bianca, Leah and our team Animals Asia who, like Jane, had spent months on the organisation and continued it throughout the whole day until 2am in the morning, as the quest for raising funds continued in to the night.

jane 2Never have we seen a fundraiser like it in Asia, and our heartfelt thanks again to Jane and Max for being so warm and generous, for giving the bears such a unique and much needed voice, and for demonstrating that enthusiasm and philanthropic kindness through the generosity of both them and their corporate and business friends can move mountains for animals without hope.

Loving you both, Jill and team Animals Asia.

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