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An animal's friend in need : In conversation with Vandana Anchalia, Founder Kannan Animal Welfare

WatStory Mar 24, 2018

Vandana is the Founder of Kannan Animal Welfare and Kannan Foundation. At these organizations, she and her team are passionately involved in animal rescue and welfare, sometimes involving cases which have been rejected by most rescue operations. 


WatStory talked to Vandana to understand her personal and professional journeys. Excerpts from the interview:



Vandana's Personal Life Journey


Q. What was it like being you as a child, how was it growing up and what is it like being an adult?

I grew up in a small town in Assam called Nagaon. Now, when I think about my childhood days, I think they were the most beautiful days of my life. I was a bright kid at school and very creative. I remember going to art school, learning classical singing and dancing. Life could not have been better. Growing up and losing my father at the age of 20 was not something that was my idea of "Growing Up". I struggled a lot to complete my studies, find a job and look after my family.


Q. What are the aspects that make you, uniquely you?

I think the fact that no matter how low or depressed I feel, I have this ability to get back up and fight. I am also an extremely honest, hardworking and fair person.


Q. What is it that drives and motivates you? What are things that you are passionate about? 

I have always had this fear of dying useless. When I say useless it means – a life that I lived for myself and did nothing to contribute towards the well being of others. This has been my biggest motivation to run an NGO and help animals. I am extremely passionate about helping anyone in whatever way it can be done. I also love art of all kinds.

Vandana with her pet cats

Q. What are the obstacles that you have faced in your personal journey so far and how did you overcome them?

As I mentioned before, my father passed away when I was 20 and I was the eldest in the family. I had to start working at a young age. I could not go to a regular college. I was a UPSC aspirant but could not study properly and clear the exam and it has been my biggest regret till date. There is nothing that I have not seen in the past 10-11 years. I have survived on one meal a day, some days I had to survive with no money at all. It was very difficult initially as I come from quite a good family and had never seen any hardship till the time my father was alive. But, as each day passed I realized how strong I am. I completed my graduation and worked hard to be where I am today. I also realized once we overcome the most difficult times in life we can do anything. Problems are always there but I think I am quite tough mentally and can overcome anything if I am determined.


Q. How do you handle success and failure?

I will be honest, I do not know how to handle either. Failure makes me sad and success makes me shy. I do not know how to celebrate success and talk about it. This is something I need to work on.


Q. What helps you stay on track?

I never forget where I started from and that makes me humble and keeps me on track.


Q. What are your biggest personal life learnings? 

Life has taught me many things but my biggest learning is to be humble and harmless. Humility and good intentions can take you places, we just need to be patient it might just take a little longer.



Vandana's Professional Life Journey


Q. What is the nature of your work?

I work full time in a Law Firm as an EA and run a NGO which rescues and re-homes injured animals. My working hours are quite long and can stretch up to 14-17 hours.


Q. What has been your journey and how did what you wanted to do professionally evolve over the years?

I started working at an early age at a salary of Rs. 1200/month with a courier company in 2006. I was determined to work hard and progress. I went on to work abroad and opened Kannan Foundation while I was still in Singapore. I started it as a small rescue operation and never thought it will receive so much love and support from people. I was running Kannan along with a full-time job. I did not rush and was very patient with the progress we made. I was always very focused on the quality of our work and hence our rescue operation took fewer cases but we did justice to them. We do have a very good reputation for reviving extreme cases which other animal shelters have turned away or recommended for mercy killing.

Vandana at the dog rescue and shelter

Q. How does your work impact you personally and the society at large?

For me it’s all about peace of mind and I don’t feel I am just another human wasting my life earning money for myself and not contributing to other people’s well-being. I am making a difference in the life of the animals I save. I also impact the life of people who dearly love animals and are often helpless when they can’t treat or help the animal in need by themselves.


QWhat does it take to succeed in your profession?

Patience is the magic word. It takes a lot of patience to deal with various kinds of people who report cases to you. Some will appreciate you and some will abuse you on not getting desired help from you. There will be days when you will have no funds and there will 100 puppy faces looking at you in the hope of getting their next warm meal. It takes a lot of patience to go through such days. There are days when we get difficult cases and the animal in need is just not responding to the treatment or doesn’t trust you enough to surrender to your fully. It takes a lot of effort to keep trying on such cases and never ever giving up.


Q. What are the major issues you face in your work life and how do you deal with them?

Here, I am only talking about my animal welfare work. We must work with minimum resources on most days as it’s a non-profit venture and we cannot waste anything. It is an issue because you must keep tab on everything and be very attentive on how the staff is utilizing the resources. Funding is always an issue. It is extremely difficult to find people to work in animal shelters. It is difficult to find compassionate staff who will love animals unconditionally. Treatment only does half of the work, it is lots of love that gives the animal the will to fight. I am fortunate enough to have a great team in place and I believe in open and fair conversation. If I feel something or someone is a problem we try and resolve it by talking. I give people a fair chance to rectify their mistakes as our work is completely people driven.


Q. How do you manage work life balance?

I am probably not the right person to answer this as I do not have great work life balance. I work too many hours thus leaving no time for myself. Even if I am with friends, I am mentally always occupied and thinking about work.


Q. What advice and tips will you give to people who want to work in the same domain as you?

For the people who want to work in the welfare sector but have been avoiding it for reasons like they are working full time and won’t be able to do justice to it, I will say passion is the biggest motivation in life. If you feel passionately about something start small but start today. Life is too short to think and not do it. If I can do it anybody can.