Dharamsala Animal Rescue relies on the passion, and compassion, of several volunteers.

Not only do we offer placements on the ground at our rescue center, we also have some ‘remote’ volunteers working behind the scenes. Today we talk with Jarika who is currently volunteering with DAR from the US.

Jarika has traveled extensively and hosts her own podcast interviewing black travelers about their experiences abroad. She has encountered many a stray dog on her travels, and decided to do something to help.

Vaila: Jarika, it’s nice to meet you. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What occupies your time at this point in your life? What are you passionate about? Tell us more about your Podcast and Blog, BlackPacking

Jarika: My name is Jarika I’m originally from North Carolina but I currently live in Atlanta, Georgia. I work as a Marketing Assistant and when I’m not working I’m spending time in the woods with my dog Mishka or drinking coffee. I host a podcast called Blackpacking where I interview Black travelers on their experiences being in a different country. I started the podcast in May 2019 to share my stories and to empower people of color to travel the world.

Vaila: Can you tell us what you are currently doing with DAR as a volunteer? And what drew you to volunteer with the organisation?

Jarika: I am currently working on Google Ads campaigns for DAR. My role is to create ads that market to people that would be interested in donating or sponsoring a dog. I have created ads for the DAR store, to promote the clothing and accessory items that DAR has to offer.

The mission statement of this organization is what attracted me to the organization:

“Our mission is to seek a humane and sustainable environment for animals with direct benefits to the people of Dharamsala, India.”

I have traveled to over 20 countries, some of which had a huge problem with many street dogs. Most of them obviously needed medical attention. Being a dog owner and being away from him during my travels is always difficult for me. What makes this harder still is seeing dogs that don’t have food, shelter, or the love of an owner. So in volunteering for DAR, I wanted to use my own skills to help street dogs in some way.

Vaila: Your experience travelling has converged with your desire to help street dogs. Can you recall any incidents that particularly drove you to volunteer helping street dogs?

Jarika: I remember being in Baños, Ecuador where there were street dogs walking around everywhere. There’s even a bar downtown called The Stray Dog. These dogs looked healthier than street dogs I had previously seen and many businesses in Baños have water bowls outside their establishments for dogs. There were a couple times that I saw restaurant owners setting out bowls of food for dogs as well. And I thought to myself ‘it’s these little gestures that can help improve the conditions most of these dogs live in’.  I always thought in the back of my mind: ‘what can I do to make a difference with street dogs?’ So when I found DAR I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

Vaila: Travel is something very close to my own heart. Without it I never would have met Deb or come to know DAR, or even have adopted my own dog. It’s something that has become harder because of the pandemic, and your podcast deals with the issues facing black travellers. I would always urge people to travel who have not. Can you sum up why travel is so important to you? And why, despite obstacles, we should endeavour to continue travelling?

Jarika: Traveling is important to me because it has been a real life teacher for me. It has helped me feel a closer connection to people from different backgrounds. Traveling has taught me more about different societies, and opened my eyes to the beauty and problems that we all face. I was the person that always thought history was boring until I started traveling. But that’s when I learned a more honest history. Being in a new country, learning about their culture and past, made me feel more informed. It gave me a better understanding of the world. 

Currently there are many obstacles that keep us from traveling internationally. So I have been encouraging people to look at travel in a different way by traveling within their own country. I feel that traveling in your country will teach you something new you didn’t know before, despite it being a familiar place.

Vaila: I believe you have your own pup. Tell us about him…

Jarika: My dog is named Mishka which means little bear in Russian, and he is exactly that, a little teddy bear. He will be 10 years old tomorrow and he’s got the personality of a human. He’s not a big fan of most dog toys but won’t turn down a treat any day, especially if it’s peanut butter. He is calm and sort of an introvert, and I would say laying in a cool puddle is his favorite pastime. 

Vaila: What would you say is something we as humans have to change to make animals’ lives better on this planet?

Jarika: One I think we should change to make animals’ lives better is getting rabies vaccinations for all dogs.

Vaila: DAR is based in northern India. What would you say to readers who feel a bit helpless to change things that are going on in other countries, such as the plight of street dogs?

Jarika: What I would say to someone that feels they can’t make a difference in other places around the world is firstly, travel. Secondly, you are not helpless in fighting issues that are across the world. If everyone felt that way we would barely see any changes. There are many ways to get involved and examples of how people can help include donations, sponsoring a dog, or volunteering. These efforts can also be done in a person’s hometown and people can always help improve the quality of life for animals. 

Vaila: Thank you Jarika for your volunteer work with DAR, and for taking the time to share your insights with us.


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About the author

Vaila Erin is a writer, lover of animals, and a bit of a nomad. For her, life is about stories — observing yourself and others so that you can laugh, cry and entertain each other with its absurdities. Connect with her at vailaerin.com or via LinkedIn.