DUBAI: Aisha Kelaf may have just lost her husband, but that hasn't stopped her from realising her dreams.
The Emirati has released her first 2012 calendar with pictures of some of the exotic animals she's homed in a bid to raise money to support her Dubai Animal Rescue Centre (DARC) in Al Barsha. At Dh35 a calendar, it's an easy way to contribute to an animal charity.
"Every dirham made from the sale of the calendars will go towards the animals' food, upkeep and veterinary bills," says Aisha, who currently homes 255 wildlife animals besides 25 domestic pets such as cats and dogs.
"When you have 280 mouths to feed daily, the money involved is exorbitant. Every day, we have to buy different kinds of food for each animal. Plus horses need hay, monkeys need trees, turtles need pools… our electricity bills are also extremely high since we have 15 air-conditioners running each day just for the animals. Animal expenses range between Dh15,000 and Dh18,000 per month, and we're not even talking veterinary costs yet," says the animal-lover.
Unfortunately, most of the wildlife that is brought into the centre come in sick, explains Aisha's daughter Sarah, who spends after-school hours looking after the animals.
With costs that run so high, and only Aisha's salary to pay for them, animal lover and DARC volunteer Louise Davies came up with the idea of creating a calendar with images of some of the beautiful animals Aisha homes in the hopes that animal lovers in Dubai will loosen their purse strings to help out these animals.
As a result, Davies, who is the business development and bookings manager at Showforce, involved her company and set about trying to find volunteers to create the calendar for free. "We were lucky to find so many animal lovers who are also experts in their own field," says Davies.
"Paul Macleod spent three Fridays at the centre patiently shooting each animal. Nick Griffin designed the calendar, Mazoon Printing, Publishing and Advertising printed the final product for us and Choitrams are distributing it for a month in their supermarkets," says Aisha, thankful at having found like-minded animals lovers ready to do their bit to help wildlife.
"Like them, I am sure there are many people out there who genuinely care for animals, who under the right circumstances would have taken a lot of pets into their homes.
"And since they can't help out physically, a low-cost calendar such as this would give them the opportunity to be a part of these animals' welfare from the comfort of their own home," says Aisha.
From Iggy the green Iguana (featured in November), to Bacardi the bulldog (October), Timone the meerkat (September), Raccoon the ferret (August), Shadow the owl (June), Achoochee the monkey (May), Bambi the deer (March) and Valentino the alpaca (January), every single bird, reptile and animal featured in the calendar lives in Aisha's Al Barsha home, better known as the Dubai Animal Rescue Centre.
The centre is open to visits from school children who wish to learn more about wildlife, or to volunteers who want to contribute their time, energy or money towards their welfare. The calendar will be sold at Choitrams outlets until February 15.