A year or so ago I signed up to do a charity trek to Morocco and climb to the summit of Jebel Toubkal. This was in aid of the Mayhew Animal Home. Nervously I began getting my gear together and try and do some form of training. Then it was announced that Pen Farthing was going to be our tour leader. To say I was more nervous is an understatement. Pen is, and always will be a hero of mine.
Now if you don’t know who Pen is then you need to read his book ‘One dog at a time’. In brief its the story of a Royal Marine (Pen) saving the life of an Afghan stray who later became known as Nowzad. This incredible story started what has now become the only officially recognised animal shelter in Afghanistan – Nowzad (yep, named after the original rescue).
Pen does a fantastic job in some very tough circumstances. He is a great man and never fails to have a smile on his face – even when he is taking the worst climbers who have done very little training up a mountain!
Having had the privilege to have been involved with Nowzad before Sniffy’s, I was starting to discover the animal welfare world is a small one. It is made up of very dedicated and frankly wonderful people. One of those people (who is often featured on this blog) is British actor Peter Egan. When I found out that Peter was going to Afghanistan to see the work of Nowzad first hand I could not have been happier. Peter is an ambassador for another wonderful organisation – Wetnose Animal Aid (along with Animals Asia and All Dogs Matter and is a big supporter of the Mayhew) and went along with their founder Gavin Gamby-Boulger. The trip was also sponsored partly by comedian and animal welfare advocate Ricky Gervais (Also a supporter of the Mayhew). Like I said, its a small world.
Their intiative for the trip, ‘Kick a ball not a puppy’ saw them take t-shirts and footballs with them to Afghanistan in a bid to further educate the children about not hurting animals. This not only helps the children, but also keeps the locals happy and more engaged. In turn the soldiers that save the animals from being a real life football (and sometimes bring them home) can see progress. An extraordinary initiative for what happens to be an extraordinary charity.
So Peter, Gavin and a team from South West London TV made the long journey to Afghanistan. Heres how their first 24 hours shaped up.
Peter Stayed in Afghanistan for only a few days but the trip has made a lasting impression on him. Sniffy’s had the pleasure to talk to the actor when he was back in the UK about his experience with Pen. Here is Part 1 of the interview that includes footage from the visit.
“It was a real eye opener visiting Nowzad. It was my first time in a war zone and brought sharp focus to the work Pen Farthing does in a city devastated by civil war. He has great courage and is very impressive. Dealing in a very cool and easy way with every hurdle he has to jump in order to save the lives of dogs, cats and now donkeys.
“It was also interesting to be in a country which has no word in its language for charity. So the whole concept of doing something for the sake of others with no personal gain, is a confusing one for a lot of Afghani’s who have never been outside their own country. That said I found the people to be very engaging and helpful.”
Anyone that has met Peter will know he likes to get stuck into whats going on. Just like his recent visit to see the moonbears in China, where Peter stayed to watch surgeries and got hands on with the bears, Peter wanted to get involved with Nowzad’s daily activities as much as possible. Here he is with rescued dog Sash.
Peter’s journey with Nowzad didn’t stop there though – In the concluding part of our interview with Peter Egan we learn about the threat to Nowzad’s future. Published tomorrow.