|Alaa and Ernesto
But then tragedy struck. The sanctuary was bombed and chlorine-gassed with all but a few of the cats killed or lost. Alaa was forced to flee, taking the remaining cats with him.
Now Alaa has returned and set up a new sanctuary in an area close to Aleppo. His work has expanded and the new sanctuary includes an orphanage, a kindergarten and a veterinary clinic. Alaa and his team resemble a small development agency, providing services that government and international charities cannot or will not. He believes that helping children look after vulnerable animals teaches them the importance of kindness to all living creatures, and helps to heal their own war traumas.
|Sanctuary vet Dr Youssef
"I've always felt it's my duty and my pleasure to help people and animals whenever they need help," Alaa says. "I believe that whoever does this will be the happiest person in the world, besides being lucky in his life."
Alaa always worked for the benefit of the community, as well as the cats themselves. While still in Aleppo, he and his team of helpers bought generators, dug wells and stockpiled food. Even at the height of the bombing, they ran animal welfare courses for children, to develop their empathy. They also set up a playground next to the sanctuary where children could briefly escape from the apocalyptic events taking place all around them.
Below is a video of Alaa in his new sanctuary.
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