Noah's Ark Animal Rescue in the Haute-Vienne, France
Cindy Maasik and her daughter Lauren run an animal rescue charity in the Haute-Vienne, France. Their sole purpose is to rescue and re-home animals in need. Since 2013, they have rescued at least 390 abused and abandoned animals. The numbers are always fluctuating as animals come and go, but at any one point in time, they can be caring for between 100 and 175 animals of all kinds. They care for horses, sheep, goats, dogs, and cats, at their farm situated at Les Dognons, Maisonnais-sur-Tardoire. This is a huge undertaking for a small family-run charity.
In Cindy's own words, they are experienced, legal in every aspect, and well respected by the local authorities they work with. Their only motivation is the love of animals, the joy of seeing their wellbeing restored, and as often as possible, finding them happy and loving forever homes.
The huge amount of work involved is tiring and all-consuming. It was particularly exhausting in the beginning when it was just Cindy and Lauren coping with all the animals by themselves. It was costly, too. So much was their dedication to the animals, and so determined were they to do everything in their power to help poor, abused, and helpless creatures, that they tried to fund veterinary treatment for the animals out of their own private finances. Not surprisingly, they soon accumulated huge vet bills and the only way to pay these was for Cindy to sell her home.
In order to continue with their work, they decided to open a tea room. They found a suitable premise at 6 rue Charles-Poitevin, Rochechouart, and opened for business on 8 August, 2015.
The concept of charity associations raising money in this way was common in the UK, but in France, it was relatively new. Despite this, the model worked well and the shop soon became firmly established and well-known in the area. It is now flourishing, and as well as serving tea, coffee, delicious homemade cake, and cold meals at midday, it doubles up as a charity shop selling second-hand clothes and other paraphernalia.
I visited the tea room recently on a Saturday afternoon and received a warm welcome. I stepped inside and found it full of people and buzzing with activity. Some had come in to browse for bargains, but for others, the place clearly served as a venue for them to meet with friends and enjoy a chat over a hot drink and a piece of homemade cake.
I discovered that events occur during the week such as bridge on a Tuesday morning, French lessons given by a qualified teacher on Wednesday mornings, and a creative hobbies meeting on Thursday afternoons. There are also regular quiz nights held at Le Gibson Bar at St. Gervais, and a book club. All funds collected go towards the Noah's Ark charity.
The charity depends on and receives a great deal of support from volunteers and well-wishers. One easy way of providing support is to become a member of the association. Annual membership costs 15 euros for a single person and 25 euros for a household. The money goes towards the care of the animals and members also receive "goodies."
In addition to the need for financial support, animal food, and unwanted items are always gratefully received for resale in the shop for the benefit of the association. Cindy and Lauren are always looking for volunteers to raise money and help out at events, and they are especially needed at the farm.
Nico and Roxanne
This soul-stirring story is just one of many that the charity has to tell.
In 2016, a call was received from an individual who was concerned about the condition of a neighbour's two horses, describing how they were being continually beaten by their owner with a spade. Noah's Ark investigated and found that both horses were very thin and that their muscles had been damaged by the beatings. It was more than they could bear to see the horses in this state so they decided to remove them to a place of safety. However, when the gendarmes became involved, although they were very sympathetic with regard to the charity's motivation for the removal of the horses, they had no choice but to inform Cindy that the law had been broken and unless she paid a fine of 1,000 euros, she risked imprisonment.
One of the most heart-warming elements of this story, along with the fact that the horses were not returned to their owner, is that within 36 hours, the full 1,000 euros had been raised by supporters and well-wishers, something that Cindy and Lauren very much appreciated. This kind act demonstrated the level of respect and admiration that people have for these two inspirational women and how much they value the work that they do.
A Note From Cindy and Lauren
None of this would be happening without the many willing, enthusiastic and caring volunteers who do so much to support us by staffing the tea room, helping at the farm, and donating so many man hours and hard labour at one-off events. Together we have achieved so much for so many animals, and we love you all for your kindness and commitment.
And not least, we are so very grateful for all your donations, both of much-needed cash and all kinds of amazing things you give us to sell in the tea rooms or to auction online. Thank you, and keep them coming. Every euro makes a difference to an animal in need.
If you are interested in sharing your home, barn, or paddock with a rescue animal, then keep abreast of what's happening with Noah's Ark, or make an appointment to come and see the animals at the farm.
If you know of an animal within the area in distress, abandoned, or that will soon no longer have a home, the charity invites you to get in touch with them. They will take the appropriate action within the law.