This month for our “What Inspires Us” campaign we had the pleasure to meet with Laurence Holyoak, a member of the International Animal Rescue organization! Laurence is an inspiring person who gives her time to helping save some really amazing animals in need. While taking her photos, our team member Gaelyn had a chance to sit down with Laurence and hear some of her stories abroad. Through rescuing bears and releasing them back into the wild and even getting to meet her pets who are also rescues, our team was moved by the bravery and ambition to help these creatures in need. We often forget that animals can’t advocate for themselves, that is why the work at the International Animal Rescue organization is so important.
Interested in learning more about the work at the International Animal Rescue, find them online at www.internationalanimalrescue.org where you can donate or even find ways to help. You can also email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview with Laurence Holyoak from International Animal Rescue
How Long Have You Been In Business?:
International Animal Rescue (IAR) has been a charity in the UK for over 30 years. We opened an office in America just over 10 years ago.
What does your company do? What products or services do you offer?
At International Animal Rescue we not only save animals from suffering, we also rehabilitate and release them back into the wild and work to protect their precious natural habitats. Our work includes setting free and caring for captive bears in India and Armenia, rescuing and rehabilitating orangutans and other primates in Indonesia and treating injured and orphaned howler monkeys in Costa Rica. Our aim is to return animals to their natural environment wherever possible, but we also provide a permanent home for those that can no longer fend for themselves.
As human populations expand, wildlife comes under increasing threat. By rescuing individual animals belonging to species like the orangutan and reintroducing them into protected areas in the wild, our work also plays a role in the conservation of the species as a whole.
What makes you different from other companies?
A few things that make us stand apart are that we take a very comprehensive approach to problems. For example, when we learned about the dancing bears in India, we didn’t want to march into their country and take away their bears. The people would have just poached another cub and the cycle would have continued. We knew we had to start with the people. We started an alternative livelihood program where we would offer the gypsies things like a rickshaw or a vegetable cart. We even opened a sewing school so they could learn a new trade. Part of the program was that their children went to school, which we also helped open. The program was so successful that people were lining up at the gate with their bears. We couldn’t take them in fast enough. We were able to end a cruel trade that went on since the 1600’s in a matter of a few years. I am so inspired by how much this small hands-on charity is able to accomplish.
Another aspect that really sets us apart is that we are conservation oriented but we also rescue individual animals in need. Most conservation groups do not do that. They only want to help the population as a whole.
What are some things you value as a business owner?
I value how strong our ethics are. When I joined the world of animal welfare, I thought we would all be arm and arm working through problems together. It was very eye opening when the main concern of many groups was the PR. We just wanted to help the animals, while others were fighting over whose tee shirts they would be wearing or what logo would be displayed. It was really disheartening. The animals are and always will be our first priority.
What kinds of things do you want to hear from clients or customers?
I love to hear that people were inspired to help animals because of us- even if it is locally. We have had people hold bake sales and creative fundraisers to help us help animals. We couldn’t do this work without our supporters so we are so grateful.
What’s your personal story? How did you get started (did you start the business or is it a family business passed down)? Was there someone that influenced and inspired you? Why are you passionate about your business?
A friend handed me a 10 minute DVD about the dancing bears in India and it was like a light switch went on for me. I knew I wanted to help them. I quit my job and went back to school. I got my Master’s Degree from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. From there, I moved to India and lived at the bear sanctuary. I dedicated my dissertation to the blind bears. When I completed my degree, I moved back to the States and opened the first International Animal Rescue office in America.
What’s the biggest factor that has helped you achieve success?
Passion! We are all passion driven and care wholeheartedly about our projects. Our CEO is wonderful about involving each and every person at IAR. Each person down to the finance team has visited a project so that we can better understand and respect the work that is being done.
What is the best advice you can give to others?
I always tell people to volunteer as much as possible. It is the best way to find passions and interests that you didn’t even know you had. I worked at every wildlife park that would let me in the door. It is also a great way to meet people in the field that you want to be in.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
Not much. I am even grateful for the mistakes I made. Sometimes it is the best way to learn.
At the end of the day, what puts a smile on your face?
We rescued a bear that was kept in a barren cage for over 10 years. Once she was at the sanctuary, she surprised us by giving birth to twins. I was in Armenia the day they were released back into the wild. As this little family headed up to the mountains together, the little girl looked up to the sky in awe. I keep that picture on my desk. It makes me so happy while also motivating me to keep fighting for the other 40 bears that are still waiting for their chance at freedom.
BONUS QUESTION: Describe a way that your business helps your community in a positive way (giving back, bringing joy/happiness, inspiring others, etc.)? Why is this important to you?
In Indonesia, we run an Orangutan Rescue and Rehabilitation program. Although they are very endangered, orangutans were seen as a pest. They were quickly losing their habitat. When they were starving, they would eat crops and the farmers would often shoot them. Now that we have a presence there and have worked diligently to help educate people, the farmers just call us and our team will relocate them.
We were also able to protect a large piece of pristine rainforest from deforestation. Not only did that protect 1,000 wild orangutans, but all of the other animals that call that forest their home.
We need your help to nominate businesses that go above and beyond to support the community and others in need.
Our goal is to showcase these individuals by offering them a collaborative experience by featuring their story in our “What Inspires Us” campaign.
Help us promote inspiring stories for others in our network to see!