by Evdoxia Lymperi

Arek Bow is of Polish descent and has been living and working in London for almost 17 years. Arek has developed a special relationship with Greece by visiting the country regularly for holidays. Seven years ago he visited the island of Mytilene and his heart was captured forever by Millie. Millie was a stray dog that he was looking after when he was on vacation but when departure day came he could not just leave her behind. So he arranged to bring her home to London.

“I love animals and I’ve rescued my dog Millie from Lesvos where I spend my summer holiday every year. Over the years I’ve seen so many neglected, suffering and mistreated animals in Greek streets which really needed help and that was heartbreaking experience.”

Arek got interested in doing something to help strays and suffering animals in Greece. He made a research and came across the Greek Animal Rescue (GAR) a charity organisation based in London which aims to help other animal charities in Greece but also to help animals be adopted in UK. According to their website: “Greek Animal Rescue is a UK based registered charity (No: 802243) which aims to help the abused, neglected, stray and injured animals of Greece. GAR was founded in 1989 and works to alleviate the suffering of animals in Greece by supporting a number of animal shelters, sterilising as many dogs & cats as funds allow and finding homes for the lucky few in the UK and several other EU countries.”

The few people who run GAR -less than a handful actually- volunteer in their spare time as they all have a full-time job. Moreover, they are not renting any offices, so they proudly declare that all the money from donations and fundraising events goes straight to the shelters that most need it. “Almost 80% of the money we raise goes to animal welfare groups in Greece and about 20% goes to Germany and UK. The vast amount of the funding goes for neutering the animals”, says Laura Trengen one of the three volunteers who run the charity.

The money raised does not go directly to the Greek shelters. For reasons of transparency and best value of the money each Greek shelter should contact GAR through the email address on their website (info at the end of the article), or through a private message on their Facebook page. “They send us a message and then we send them a form they need to fill in. Almost everyone passes the test after we check them. We don’t pay directly the groups though. We ask them who is your vet, who supplies you with food, and after we check them we pay them” says Ms. Trengen.

Jazz for the Strays
One of the fundraising events took place in Jazz Pizza Express in Soho London and it was sold out. The Sunday afternoon gig was totally successful as it raised a little bit less than £3,000 (€3500). The renowned jazz and ethnic singer Vimala Row opened the show and the London based Greek singer Anatoli Tsampa concluded it.

The mesmerising voice of Vimala Row took the audience through standard jazz songs with a twist accompanied by legend guitarist John Etheridge and pianist Theo Jackson. She concluded her gig with an exceptional performance of the Lord’s Prayer in Syrian Aramaic language. As she said “the purpose of the gathering here is sacred and the prayer is a hymn to peace and love.”

Anatoli Tsampa introduced the audience to some old and new Greek songs mixing them with some jazz and pop ones, accompanied by guitarist Giorgos Pafitis. The mainly British audience enjoyed the music and seemed to genuinely appreciate the Greek songs. Ms. Tsampa thought highly of the initiative and was impressed particularly by Arek. “Someone who is Polish, lives in London and thinks of the animals in a third country… It’s really remarkable and I wanted to support it.”

As Arek says “Life of stray animals on Greek streets is not easy, that’s why I’ve been raising funds for charities like Greek Animal Rescue, and hopefully with time we can make a difference.”