Free Spirit Festival Free Spirit Festival - celebration of Tibetan art and culture, especially reflecting contemporary life.

Free Spirit Award 2016: Deb Jarrett

Deb Jarrett - Free Spirit Award 2016

Deb Jarrett

When Deb Jarrett was about to turn 40, she decided she needed to do something that would really expand her horizons. Her life was good, but something was missing. She had a great job in technology management and was living in San Francisco. However, the feeling of making a true contribution on this planet was lacking, and deep down she knew she needed to make a change.

The need to fill that void led her to Dharamshala, India, where she spent several weeks volunteering at a preschool. Working with the children proved completely overwhelming, as did the chaotic culture of India. What truly got to her, however, was seeing an injured and bloody dog lying in the temple where the school was held, apparently left to die. It broke her heart to watch the dog suffer — and to see how little the local people seemed to care about his condition.

She was saddened by the reactions, and felt helpless. Then, her path crossed with a local man who knew someone who could help. Miraculously, her actions and concern sparked a change. Today, she is happy to report that the dog, Tommy, is healthy and cared for by this very village. Upon returning home to the US, she knew she needed to do everything in her power to improve the lives of the street animals, and she created Dharamshala Animal Rescue to do just that.

Dharamshala Animal Rescue's mission is simple:

End suffering, increase compassion.
We seek a humane and sustainable environment for animals with direct benefits to the people of Himachal Pradesh, India. We work to end human deaths by rabies, provide humane animal control and rescue programs, adoption, and community education.

Deb says: "Our vision is to teach the community to treat the stray animal population as a local problem that can be managed with compassion and education. We are teaching the locals to view animals as part of the community, not as pests who are diseased and unwanted."

To do this, the organisation runs five main programmes:

  1. ABC/AR: Animal Birth Control / Anti-rabies – A catch-and-release sterilization and vaccination program to humanely reduce the population of stray dogs and keep the community safe from rabies.
  2. Mobile Clinic – Provides aid for animals who need non-critical care.
  3. Street Animal Rescue – Provides rescue services and 24-hour care for those animals in critical need.
  4. Humane Education – Teaches local schools and villages about rabies and about compassion towards animals
  5. Adoption

The overall goal is to have the community be a partner in caring for the street animals -- actually for all animals -- of Dharamshala. Deb says, "we see improvements every year and that's what keeps us going."