Volunteer of the Month – August 2018

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, VOKRA wouldn’t exist without our volunteers. Currently we have more than 400 volunteers working hard to ensure the kitties in our care get everything they need and are adopted in loving homes. But how do we find all these volunteers? That’s where our volunteer recruitment team comes in. This month we’re celebrating one of our volunteers who helps us find volunteers – Raj Johal. Here Raj tells us in his own words why he volunteers with VOKRA:

 

At the beginning of university, I wanted to get involved and volunteer to not only get experience but to meet others and make an impact. With me wanting to pursue a career in medicine the first thing that came to mind was a hospital. I started volunteering there but felt I couldn’t contribute towards anything significant or make any sort of meaningful impact. Thus, I started searching again and stumbled upon VOKRA. I had always loved animals so as I got to learn more about what this organization did and how they achieved it I knew it was the right fit and I wanted to be a part of it.

I was also fortunate enough to have gotten the position of recruitment coordinator allowing me to talk to a wide range of individuals. This is undoubtedly my favorite part of being a recruiter as I get to talk to and hear from people of different cultures and backgrounds. I’ve now heard countless stories about how cats or other animals have made a difference in people’s lives which I find to be truly inspiring. All these volunteers and their mutual love of animals and passion for helping is why I believe VOKRA has been able to do such a good job. The fact I get to play a part in introducing them to our organization is instrumental for me and something that always makes me smile.

In terms of my role, I started off as a recruitment coordinator and then in conjunction was also the team lead for over two years. I’ve really enjoyed both roles, as a recruiter I’m responsible for screening volunteer applications which involves interviewing volunteers and ultimately placing them in positions that fill our needs, but most importantly makes them happy. As a team lead, I was responsible for coordinating with other team leads to determine volunteer needs, making and refining volunteer positions along with applications, recruiting volunteers via postings and presentations, and finally ensuring our team was a cohesive unit that worked hard to fill all these gaps.

Over the years, I’ve formed many memories  I believe have shaped me into who I am today. The one that stands out is from last year when Shoaib, one of our recruitment coordinators, and I did a presentation at a senior care home. The purpose of this presentation was to recruit new volunteers. I don’t remember now how many ended up applying but what I do remember is this story of an older lady with her cat. She talked to us at the end about how having her cat was such a huge support network for her when she was severely depressed and without any family or friends. It just goes to show that not only are we helping cats but also indirectly making a positive impact on people. It makes me very proud to be a part of VOKRA when I hear how highly people think of this organization!

I am now volunteering as a recruitment coordinator while Michelle leads this team to hopefully become even better and efficient. However, I have learned a tremendous amount in my time here and met many altruistic individuals. I believe these to be a key part of why I got into medical school and something that I’ll always remember now that I embark on this journey!

THANK YOU Raj for all your hard work and dedication through the years. We’re so proud you’ve succeeded in being accepted into medical school at UBC and have no doubt you’re going to be a fabulous doctor!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers, especially in the summer months. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – June 2018

Glenn CutcheyCan you believe we’re half way through 2018 already?! The days are flying by quickly and summer’s almost here, which means at VOKRA we’ll be busy juggling kittens, cats and fosters as people head off on vacation. But one of the people who never seem to take a vacation is our Volunteer of the Month for June, Glenn Cutchey. Here Glenn tells us in his own words why he volunteers for VOKRA:

 

This is my third year as a volunteer driver for VOKRA. My duties include food and litter deliveries, transporting cats and kittens between the Operations Centre, foster homes and vets, picking up donations and medications, and helping to transport the VOKRA booth to and from special events. Earlier this year I joined the trapping and recovery team after attending co-founder Maria’s trapping course and I’ve also converted a bedroom in my apartment to a foster home for shy and semi-feral kittens after attending co-founder Karen’s cat care course. I’ve just successfully socialized my first batch of three kittens that were trapped earlier this year, finding a forever home for one and the other two went into regular foster care. I made videos of the kittens during their socialization and posted them to YouTube for potential adopters to see and to help educate other people interested in fostering shy and semi-feral kittens. I’m looking forward to working with the next batch and will continue to document the process in hopes it helps other socializers or fosters. Additionally, I’m working on joining the I.T. and database team and the video and photography team. I am always looking for ways to help.

Glennandluci

Glenn with his cat Luci

I’m a veteran and retired computer programmer and I originally joined VOKRA as a meaningful way to keep active and social. I was given a VOKRA flyer, from a friend, 11 years ago when I was wanting a buddy cat for my original resident tabby tom, but I found my Luci and so I didn’t adopt a cat at that time. I did find that flyer again three years ago when I wanted to start volunteering somewhere so I took it as a sign from the universe and applied to volunteer. Since drivers were in most demand, as still is the case today, I eagerly accepted the role and considerate the best use I put my car to.

I really enjoy helping all the wonderful people at VOKRA. I’ve never met such a selfless and caring group of people. From my experience I found many volunteer jobs have a lot of personal politics and attitudes attached to them, but at VOKRA it really is all about the kittens. From the people at Ops to the foster homes, I think everyone is a real hero and am just happy to help them do their good work.

My most memorable experience was early in my driving days, I was sent to recover two semi-feral 10-month-old kittens that became too much for the foster to handle. I was supposed to bring them back to Ops for evaluation, but when I arrived at the foster’s home, they hadn’t managed to get the cats into the carriers so I offered to help. Being new and thinking I had some sort of special talent for communicating with cats, since I’ve had many and they were all wonderful, I thought I could just outsmart them. Was I ever wrong! We got the first one into a carrier but the second one panicked and attacked my hands. My hands got all bit and scratched up and the cat still won. You learn a lot about yourself when you get beaten up by a kitten. From that day forward I always say I am just in training… always in training. Especially now that I have some videos online and people are saying they recognize me from the videos when I introduce myself and they think I am some kind of expert, one lady even called me a cat whisperer, but I just say “no, I’m still in training”

My most moving experience was just this year when I came into the Operations Centre to pick up food and litter for my regular delivery just as four ice cold newborn kittens were rushed in. I just stood in pure awe at the sight of these poor tiny kittens being brought back from the brink of death.

Last year I was at the right place at the right time to rescue a cat in my neighborhood who had been abandoned and was starving and in distress. I called Ops and told them about the situation and they said I could bring the cat in if I could catch it. A few neighbors who were worried about the cat helped me get it into a carrier and I brought it right in. He was so thin and dirty and I thought the cat had given up on itself. The next week I came into Ops and the cat was still there but I hardly recognized him. I even asked if that was the same cat I rescued. He was so clean I asked if they bathed him, but no, he had regained his dignity and cleaned himself up. It was so heartwarming to see him take pride in himself.

Working at VOKRA fulfills my natural desire to help serve my community (a remnant of my military training no doubt). I don’t really have any favorite cats, but my favorite part of my job is coming into Ops and tickling chins. I especially feel honoured when cats tagged with “Caution: Unpredictable” or “Warning: Bites” allow me to give them attention and they don’t live up to their reputation with me.

THANK YOU Glenn for your tireless efforts and dedication to the kitties! Your service is truly appreciated!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

VOKRA is always in need of volunteers, especially as we head into the summer months. If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – May 2018

The May sunshine is shining a spotlight on our Volunteer of the Month, Nicole Neifert!

Nicole has been described as “The Original VOKRA Surrey Volunteer”. For more than 10 years she’s spent countless hours helping to get homeless and abandoned cats off the streets.

“I first met Nicole in 2008 when I started trapping for VOKRA,” said fellow volunteer Mona Boucher. “She was dropping off a cat she had trapped at the vet hospital.  Back in those days we didn’t have a postop space so feral cats were set up in kennels at trapping sites to recover from spay/neuter before being released.”

Eventually Nicole built an insulated and heated shed in her backyard to house cats recovering from spays/neuters and a host of other ailments and injuries.

Amy, Hans & Itty are just a few of the cats in Nicole’s life.

“Many times we’ve had cats stacked to the ceiling after a night or several nights of trapping and she never complains,” says Mona. “Over the years hundreds and hundreds of cats and kittens have come through her shed.”

As Nicole has a veterinary background, she’s a natural fit to care for the frailest, injured and sick cats trapped in Surrey. She’s seen miraculous recoveries and a fair share of heartbreak, but over and over again she puts her heart on the line to care for the cats in the greatest need.

Although Nicole doesn’t trap much these days, from time-to-time stray cats in need of help find their way to her yard.  She’s also quick to respond when there’s a cat in distress – up a tree or caught in a space where they can’t get out.

“Like most of us involved with VOKRA, a few cats have stolen Nicole’s heart and moved into her home,” said Mona. “Some of them are still with her today and some of them have crossed the rainbow bridge. She cares for her own cats and the rescued cats while simultaneously working and caring for her husband and two children. She’s an inspiration.”

In Nicole’s own words, “Everyday little things are done and add up to huge changes. Colonies fixed and fed, homeless strays warm in a bed again, lots of full bellies and raising the care and awareness of owned and stray cats. I’ve entered abandoned houses and left with cats and fish, I have dug up the dirt under concrete stairs to get an injured kitty, stood below a tree and prayed for the tree guy and the cat, a friend got stuck in a recycling bin while helping me get some kittens that had fell in, loaded my car to the bump stops with free cat donations, driven thousands of kilometers, scooped millions of poops, and cleaned just as many kennels. All of these things have accumulated to amazing changes in so many lives, including my own. It is an honor to be recognized but it is a gift to be part of VOKRA. I’ve been supported by so many amazing ladies.”

“I’ve learned so much from Nicole over the years and I look forward to many more years and many, many more kitty lives changed for the better,” said Mona. “Nicole is simply awesome!”

We couldn’t agree more! THANK YOU so much Nicole for your dedication. VOKRA was built through the hard work of volunteers just like you and we can’t thank you enough.

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

It Takes a Clowder*

*Clowder = a group or cluster of cats.

When Karen Duncan and Maria Soroski founded VOKRA back in 2000 it was headquartered in the basement of Karen’s Victorian home in Kitsilano. The plan was to care for very young, mostly bottle-fed kittens and, as often happens, things didn’t go according to plan.

Karen & Maria with longtime volunteer Shelley

Back in the day, VOKRA had a “staff” of approximately 10 volunteers and averaged 150 rescues a year. By 2008, that number had increased to 800 cats and kittens and in 2014 that number jumped to more than 1,800. After finding loving homes for thousands of cats and kittens it was about time VOKRA moved out of Karen’s basement and got a new home of its own. So in 2014 we opened our Operations Centre.

Since opening the Operations Centre (a.k.a. Ops), VOKRA has been very lucky to have an amazing amount of truly dedicated volunteers join us and help save the lives of cats and kittens.

Volunteers at our Ops making sure kittens are flea-free

Today, VOKRA currently has more than 400 volunteers working hard either behind the scenes or at Ops. We also have more than 550 foster homes, currently fostering or available to foster.

Just at our Operations Centre alone, there are an average of 168 volunteers a week! Here’s a quick snapshot of what it takes to make Ops tick:

  • Cat Care, Operations Support and Maintenance – 125+ shifts per week.
  • Medical Team – 17 volunteers
  • Reception – 20+ shifts per week

Our Operations Centre is also very busy with a large number of fosters who pick up food/supplies/medications for their foster kitties.

There are also hundreds of VOKRA volunteers “behind the scenes” who make things happen. We currenlty have 261+ volunteers on 48 teams, including:

Our event volunteers are always out in the community

Volunteer Recruitment- Adoption Counsellors – Adoption Contracts – Foster Coordinators – New Foster – Homes Interviewers – Kitty Health Checks – Medical Research – Foster Kitty Vaccination – Cat Behaviourism – Monitoring Health in Foster Care – Post Adoption Health Support – Vet Lab Reports – Fundraising – Events – Volunteer Committee – Communications – Photography – Kitty Biographers – Finance – IT – Database Administration – Foster Website – Trapping – Barn Placement – Drivers – Southlands Barn (where elderly feral cats and disabled kitties live) – and more!!!!

There never seems to be a shortage of cats to rescue

Sometimes it seems like we’re all chasing our tails trying to keep up – we’ve grown in leaps and bounds and, at times, are still going through growing pains. But we’re all here for one thing – the kitties.

Thank you to each and every one of our special volunteers who are a member of the VOKRA clowder. We wouldn’t exist without your dedication and support. Each and every one of you make a difference in the lives of kitties each day.

We’re always looking for new volunteers! If you’re interested in volunteering, visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – April 2018

April showers may bring flowers, but they also bring us our Volunteer of the Month, Cynthia Reed!

Cynthia first started volunteering with VOKRA back in the summer of 2010 when we were still headquartered in co-founder Karen’s basement. Since then she’s witnessed the amazing growth of the organization and our move into a shiny new Operations Centre.

Within Cynthia’s first week of volunteering Karen, one of our master persuaders, had also talked her into fostering two small feral kittens.

“It was the height of kitten season and Karen’s basement was overflowing with kitties needing a home,” explains Cynthia. “How could I say no to Karen?”

Like many fosters, Cynthia “foster failed” on her first try and became a pet parent to fur-babies Tony and Cleo, who will be eight years old this month.

Cynthia has many memories of kitties she’s fallen in love with during her time volunteering with VOKRA. One of the cats who will stay in her heart forever is Chance the Wobbler, a cat with mobility issues who lived at Karen’s for a long time.

Jorge is patiently waiting for a new foster to come along

There’s also Charlie, who lived at Ops after being diagnosed with cancer, and Jorge, a sweet senior who is patiently waiting at the Centre for a new foster home. And there’s also Beamer, a blind and deaf kitten who Cynthia spent many hours playing with when he first arrived.

“There are way too many to count them all,” said Cynthia. “Everyone is special.”

Since VOKRA moved into our Operations Center, Cynthia has spent most of her cat care time in the T-N-R room.

“My experience with feral cats has been very rewarding and I have certainly learned a lot from (co-founder) Maria when helping her with some the wilder cats,” Cynthia explains. “I have done my best to adopt Maria’s calm and patient nature with the cats and now I look forward to caring for those ‘terrible’ cats other people might be afraid to approach.”

Cynthia goes on to say, “Being with VOKRA for so many years has given me the opportunity to work with and get to know some great people and I have been able to pass on what I have learned by mentoring several new volunteers.”

Volunteering for VOKRA has been a fantastic experience and I hope to be around for many years to come.

Cynthia  Reed

Thank you so much Cynthia for all your dedication to the kitties and the many, many hours you’ve spent volunteering. We truly appreciate your support and also hope you’ll be around for many years to come!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – March 2018

Spring is in the air! At VOKRA, sunshine and cherry blossoms can only mean one thing – the kittens are coming! Soon our Operations Centre will be even more of a hive of activity than it already is. One of the people who help pull it all together is Monique H. who is one of the smiling volunteers you’ll find manning the front desk. Monique does a wonderful job and also ensures all the new receptionists know the ropes when they start. Here she tells us in her own words why she volunteers for VOKRA:

I took a very serendipitous route to VOKRA…the universe was trying to tell me something. I first heard of VOKRA when I binge-watched the locally shot TV show Fringe and Googled lead actress Anna Torv. She was a foster to some very adorable VOKRA kittens and talked about them in interviews. Naturally my next step was to search for “VOKRA kittens”, which led me to a gigantic cache of cute. I followed the kitten video trail until I found an article talking about VOKRA’s new Operations Centre in East Van, which just happened to be a few blocks from my house. It was meant to be!

I think I was one of the first group of receptionists, as Ops had only been open for around 6 months when I started volunteering. We hadn’t even taken over the space next door yet, which was a doggy daycare, although I’m sure they sensed the cats were going to win their territory when van-loads of mamas and babies started arriving. It all looked so organized and efficient, although co-founder Karen gave quite a laugh years later when I told her those initial impressions.

Minda

My main motivation for wanting to help rescue cats was how much of an impact my own kitty has had on my life. I was always an animal lover, but my parents were not cat people, to say the least. Even when I moved out on my own I wasn’t able to take the leap. That changed when my partner and I adopted Minda. We found her through the SPCA and she was so sad and scared in her kennel that it broke my heart. She quickly became “my” kitty and I learned the joy of waking up to a cat cuddled on my stomach (I also learned the “joy” of being trained to dish out earlier and earlier breakfasts). When I developed health problems and couldn’t participate in a lot of my former activities, Minda was there to purr beside me and keep me company. Not only is every cat worth saving, doing so may save a human as well. That’s why my very favourite part of working the front desk is filing adoption papers, as each contract represents a wonderful new relationship forming.

I’m keeping it a secret from Minda, but other kitties have won my love as well. My very first “VOKRA crush” was sweet little Mei-Lei with her long coat and jaunty jackets. When she got injured and lost while in care I was among the many, many folks having a quiet heart attack desperately hoping she would be all right. I obviously have an “M” problem, because Meep was also very special to me around the same time. She would fall asleep in a blanket in my lap and she was around Ops for so long that we had a regular Saturday date to zone out after my shift before I went home.

Bottle feeding Little Dude

Last summer I got to bottle-feed a kitten for the very first time, thanks to Little Dude. It’s really an incredible feeling, I think I’m addicted now. Help! And of course, the kitties that are no longer with us like Stewart and Charlie. I was working my shift when Charlie first was surrendered by his family and got to see his pain and confusion turn to confidence and chattiness as he outlasted all predictions on how long he would be around. I miss you so much Charlie – every time I see those little dried fish I think of you.

My favourite memory of VOKRA itself is a night I spent at Ops in the days before we installed air conditioning. With the bay door open and warm summer air coming through, I got to witness all of the cats wake up from their after-supper naps and become the little lions that they are. Shy ferals came out of their hiding places and sleepy cats started to play recklessly with their toys. Kittens squeaked and pounced. It was like visiting the tiniest jungle and I feel honoured to have had an invite. Thank you so much, Karen and Maria, for creating a place where cats can be themselves and where we humans get to see them do so.

THANK YOU Monique!!! Your dedication to VOKRA and all the kitties is truly inspiring!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.

Volunteer of the Month – February 2018

February is the month of love and we have an endless amount of it for our volunteers! This month we’re celebrating Mandy Douglas and her dedication to ensuring newly adopted kitties are insured. Here she tells us in her own words why she volunteers for VOKRA:

I started volunteering with VOKRA in the beginning of 2014. I had some big life changes the year before and decided to finally get involved with an organization I greatly admired. I first heard of VOKRA many years earlier, when my parents and I were feeding a large number of feral cats that started showing up around our house. VOKRA was kind enough to offer us the use of their Trap-Neuter-Return traps and help advise us on how best to catch these cats in order to get them fixed and find them homes. I respected the no-kill aspect and being entirely run by volunteers and knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

My first few months with VOKRA, I was helping out with administrative work in the very newly opened Operations Centre, but due to an irregular work rotation I was unable to commit to a consistent schedule, so instead I just focused on insurance vouchers. I work from home and register every cat who gets adopted with six weeks free insurance from Pets Plus Us. This process takes place 2-3 times per week, every week, without fail (even on my honeymoon, thanks to my very supportive husband!). Not only does this allow some protection to the adopter during the initial transition of bringing the kitty home, but Pets Plus Us also gives a donation to VOKRA for each registration.  Over the past four years, I’ve logged well over 500 hours and registered nearly 5,000 cats for their insurance!!

My favourite part of volunteering is seeing the “less desirable” cats find their homes – the older cats, ones with behavioural or medical difficulties and even the “superstitious” black cats. It’s always such a happy moment to learn these cats can spend their days being loved and cared for properly.

Monty

I’ve fallen in love with every cat I’ve met at the Ops Centre, but the most memorable ones were Monty and Cinnabar. These were cats who had suffered a lot, some at the hands of humans, but they didn’t let that affect their ability to trust and would allow me (a stranger) to cuddle them and even rub their bellies.  It was always a special moment and these cats served as role models for me and for the way I should conduct my life – not allowing the mistakes/abuse of others to affect my ability to trust or love someone new.

I genuinely love the work I do for VOKRA and I am honoured to be able to contribute to an organization I can be proud of. I look forward to many more years and thousands more cats!

THANK YOU Mandy!!! We’re the ones who are honoured to have you as a volunteer!

As a volunteer-driven non-profit, we clearly couldn’t do what we do without our extremely dedicated and hard working team of volunteers. Thank you to each and every one of you!

If you’re interested in volunteering with us visit our website at vokra.ca/volunteer.