It was a rainy afternoon when Yerika Cornelia and I were standing side by side on a packed train. “The train would usually be stuck on the next station. If not, the trip from my house to the campus will definitely feel quicker.” Then I just smiled at her and looked outside the window. A few moments later, the train was stuck on the next station. All of us were waiting, and in that moment, there were so many interesting stuffs to be watched and heard from where I stood. For example, the kind of clothes the train passengers wore, or the sound of a child asking his father why the train suddenly stopped.
However, that day, I chose to focus myself in watching and listening to Yerika’s stories. Of course not in a creepy way―I mean, in a friendly natural way. Three years ago, we enrolled to the same university and took the same major. I remember Yerika was sitting next to me during our terrible ‘Welcoming Freshmen’ days, and we talked a little bit about a k-pop group. For some semesters, we used to be in the same class, but never talked a lot to each other. Yerika is such a unique person with a kind heart. And this time, I’d like to get to know and write about her.
At the campus, Yerika joined the dance club, and that makes many people adore her dance skill. She may look sweet; but believe me, she’s actually a tough and brave person on the inside. I can say that because I’ve seen what she’s been doing on her second Instagram account (@corneliafamily) which contains some of her animal helping activities. She did some stray cat rescue missions and brought them home, then gradually updates their health development through that account. Some of the missions she did were even harmful.
We got off the train and the rain still languidly poured. To get ourselves sheltered, we then walked under the big trees, and Yerika began her search. “There was a sick stray cat that I met in this area a few days ago. I fed him, and never see him again until then. I really hope he’ll survive because he was terribly sick.” Then I started to look for the cat too. Yerika even looked for it under the cars or the garbage bin, and sadly we found nothing.
When we finally arrived in front of Yerika’s house, there was a cat laying on the street. Yerika then called him and the three of us entered the house, greeted by Yerika’s mom. “My parents taught me to be kind to the animals since I was a child. When I was in kindergarten, I started to take care of the stray cats.” It’s been an everyday habit for Yerika to bring cat food inside her bag, so she can feed stray cats which she meets along the way. “Back in that time, my main focus was just to feed the cat. After I get older, I don’t just want to feed them. I also want them to be healthy and living a good life.”
@corneliafamily was started two years ago, and Yerika uses that platform to share the rescued cats’ growth, along with her cat-feeding activity. Through the account, Yerika also tries to educate people to be kind with the animals. “My close friends at campus were scared and disturbed when stray cats got close to them. Then I asked them to feed the cats with me, and luckily, now they start liking cats too.”
Her followers love to see her activity, and they often leave some grateful messages on the comment section. “Everytime I rescue a new cat, people will leave lovely comments on the photo. Many of them wish me a wealthy life and expressed their gratitude. They thank me as if they were representing the cats that I rescued.” At first, it was unexpected, and Yerika didn’t know what to reply. “I was confused when I first faced those comments. All I can do is thanking them for being so kind. And since I have a lot of people following me on that account, it feels like I’m bearing a bigger responsibility now. That makes me don’t want to let those people down.”
The positive feedbacks from her followers slowly turn to be more than just kind comments. One of Yerika’s follower from Medan (North Sumatra) sent her a big amount of cat food supply, and the other follower gave her donation for the cat medication. Yerika was really grateful for their help. “I used to be in a hard situation when Christmas and Cony (names of her cats) fell sick at the same time. Back in those days, I went to the doctor back and forth, and didn’t have a lot of money for the medication.” Because of that experience, Yerika now has a plan to make and sell her own cat merchandise, to save the money for the cat food and medication.
Yerika is also part of Garda Satwa; a non-profit animal welfare organization which is based in Indonesia. “I used to be so active in the organization back then. I would come to the pet shelter once a week to bathe the dogs and do some health controls. There were also times when I had to go there more often for meetings about the organization event. Going to the shelter felt like an essential need for me.” Unfortunately, Yerika’s grade on the campus decreased because she spent too much time at the shelter. “Then I moved to the design division of the organization. My job right now is to make merchandise design for the funding, and now I can do it remotely.”
Spending a lot of time at animal shelter makes Yerika understand that a lot of people people still lack commitment when it comes to take care of their animal pet. “Some people only love to see dogs when they’re still puppies. Some even see them as a lifestyle component. After the dogs grow up and their appearance become dull, a lot of dog owners will throw their pets away, or leave them at the shelter.” In Yerika’s opinion, it’s way better to adopt than to buy your pet, because there are still a lot of the shelter animals who need a good owner to take them home. “You have to put a lot of commitment before you take care of them. It’s not just about feeding them or cleaning their feces. There are so many things you have to do once you’re having a pet.”
Some people see Yerika positive activity as something strange. “There was a moment when I was feeding the cats at the station, and a man suddenly asked me about my religion. When I told him I was a catholic, he asked me, why would a catholic girl like you want to feed the stray cats?” It seemed like the man was confused because in Islam faith, they believe that Prophet Muhammad was kind and tender to the cats, and Muslims should treat the cats well too*. “Hearing that question, I just frowned my eyebrow and awkwardly smiled to him.” There was also a moment where people asked her, “Don’t you get embarrassed for sitting and feeding cats on the street?” Then Yerika calmly explained, “I don’t care what people think of me. All I care about is the cat get enough food to eat.”
More than five cats live at Yerika’s house. Some of them only come when it’s dinner time, and some will stay all day on the terrace floor. She never cages the cats so they can grow and live freely. “Every cat has its own story, and Caroline is the one who stays with us for the longest,” she began. Caroline is a female cat who had just got sterilized. She is calmer than the others, and that makes Yerika let Caroline live inside the house, while the others are only allowed to get around the terrace or garage. “Caroline was found when I was in the car, on my way to the campus with my dad. Across the street, I saw a man who brought a sack. He threw the things inside into the street, and then walked away. Then turned out there were two kittens fell from it (one of them was Caroline), and they ran straight crossing the street! One of them even fell into the ditch. Then I got off from my car to brought the kittens home, and I skipped the class on that day.” Now, Caroline is people’s favorite from @corneliafamily.
There was also an interesting story where Yerika found a sick little kitten. She put it inside a plastic bag, and brought it on the train home. “Bringing animal inside the train is prohibited. I was lucky because the kitten didn’t make too much noise.” Yerika also had an experience where she rescued a kitten who still learned to walk but suddenly got abused by irresponsible people. “I was at a traditional market to get my jacket embroidered. Then suddenly I saw a man who swept a little kitten using broom in front of me. He swept it along with the other trash.” Then Yerika asked the man, “Why did you do it? Do you think the kitten is just a trash?” The man just laughed and left, and Yerika didn’t care about him. All that Yerika care about is the kitten which she brought home with her that day. The cat was named Cony and he lives a happy life now.
While Yerika was telling me her stories, there was one cat that never got tired playing around so joyfully. His name is Christmas and he almost took the chocolate biscuit that I ate. I didn’t usually play with cats, and I was a little bit scared when he jumped into my lap. However, it was surely a nice experience to get to know him. “Christmas was rescued on 23rd of December 2016. I remember that was the last day of our fifth semester final exams. My friend Victory found him in front of a printing station in Grogol (West Jakarta). Christmas couldn’t open his eyes and his body was wet from falling into the ditch. We were so afraid that somebody had torn out the eyeballs.” Victory then contacted Yerika, and she told him to bring the kitten to the campus. “I suggested him to find a box to carry the kitten. When they arrived at the campus, I checked the kitten’s eye right away and was so relieved that they’re still there. Then I brought him to the doctor, and it turned out that he was having a 40oC fever. Had we come to the doctor just a minute late, Christmas wouldn’t have survived until today.” The little Christmas were injected by five medicine shots, and he had to take a lot of medicines at home. “Everyday, I had to clean his eyes with antiseptic liquid, so he wouldn’t get infected.” After two weeks, Christmas health was getting better. “He was already able to run around the house, even though he still crashed the clothesline stand,” Yerika laughed.
She also had another extreme rescue experience that happened at our campus. “There was a pregnant cat living there. After she gave birth, one of her children fell into the ditch hole. I was sitting near its location when the day started to get dark. It was about 6 PM when I heard a mewing sound. I tried to find the source, and it turned out that the little kitten was stuck in a deep ditch, with a very small hole that makes it hard to access.” Since it’s difficult and dangerous to put her hand into the ditch, Yerika and some friends put their camera phone into the hole and record the video of it, so they can see where exactly the kitten location is. After watching the record, Yerika then tried her best to put her hands into the hole. She also brought cat food on her hand, hoped that the kitten would approach. “There was a big spider inside the ditch, and I almost touched it. It’s so scary!” Luckily, the poor little kitten was successfully saved, and everyone was happy!
“We closed the hole with some bricks, but the next day somebody put the bricks away. When I was on my way home from the campus, a friend contacted me and said there was another kitten fell into ditch. So I got back there and did another rescue.” Well, it sure doesn’t sound like an easy job, right?
View this post on Instagram
#Repost @yerikacornelia with @repostapp ・・・ This is just happening today~ 1,5 jam mencari cara buat ngeluarin anak kucing ini yg nyemplung ke selokan tertutup. Jadi kaya selokan trs ditutup pake apasih itu bentuknya balok buat saluran air.. Sampe bilang ke satpam dan satpam mencari teknisi buat bobol tutupnya :' soalnya disemen, jd ga bs dibuka gt tutupnya. akhirnya tbtb kepikiran buat pancing pake whiskas basah dari lubang sela2 tutup selokannya. Untung dia nyamperin bau amis itu :' akhirnya dengan kelebihan kekurusan yg gw punya, tangan gw muat masuk ke lobang selokan itu😂 rasanya yah gaes kaya seluruh jaring laba2 nempel di tangan loe😭 ada laba2 gede bngt lg hikshiks.. Tp untungnya bs survive ya km puss :' jangan nyemplung kesana lagi ya :' lobangnya sudah ditutup.. Induknya pake segala galak banget ngomel2 mulu takut anaknya diapa2in.. Tp pas disogok makanan langsung diem gais walau abis itu ngomel2 lg.. . Jadi awalnya lagi ngobrol2 di tupa sama anak2. Tiba2 ada suara anak kucing eong eong. Langsung nyamperin ke sumber suara kan, ada induk kucing nyusuin 2 anaknya. Anaknya lg nenen tp msh ada suara eong eong. Ternyata ada seekor yg nyemplung ke bawah selokan😂 di senterin pake hp adanya di pojokan, susah bgt ambilnya. Sampe segala mau diambil pake tongsis, sapu, raket, ilmu sihir, sampe guru ukm taekwondo mau disuruh pecahin batunya :'( . Thanks God for your help :' yg penting anak kucingnya selamat.. Gajadi kelaparan, kedinginan, dan menderita dibawah sana :') panjang umur puss, sering2 bawain makanan aahhh😍 . Thankyou jg buat kalian gais @victorysamz @danbemore @stevencristian_ jangan bosen2 buat bantu binatang ya ^^ makasih jg buat beberapa anak ukm taekwondo/wushu/silat gw gatau.. . . #catrescue #kitten #jakarta #animalwelfare #catlovers #catvideo #animalrescue #cat
Unfortunately, not every rescue that she did ended up in happy ending. Some sick cats were dead after being brought home. They were severely sick that they couldn’t make it. One rescued cat was also lost, and probably got stolen by someone. The most unforgettable story was when Yerika rescued a black feral cat who lived around her neighborhood. “Different from stray cat, that one was a feral cat; a cat who doesn’t let human to touch or handle him. He dag foods from the trash, and didn’t really eat much. One of my neighbor tried to approach him but it didn’t work. Finally, I brought him food, and he began to trust me. I called him Opa Charlie” Sadly, an irresponsible stranger took away that trust with a stupid action. “Later, I found out that someone wounded his neck with cigarette, and the scar was getting bigger because he scratched it. He got scared and lost his trust for human. I then tried to approach him again, put bandage and medicine around his neck, but he always scratched off the bandage.”
In that moment, the local government around Yerika’s neighborhood put out a policy where all the pet cats should wear a necklace with their owner’s identity. Or else, the government would do a sweeping to catch the stray cats, and throw them away to the traditional market. They did it because they see cat as a disturbing plague for the neighborhood. “They took my black cat too. His neck was wounded so bad that he couldn’t wear any necklace. It’s been a week since the last time I saw him. I don’t think he would survive, and it makes me feel weary,” told Yerika. She asked the local government about the black cat, and they responded Yerika carelessly, almost said nothing.
“I know that people hate stray cats because they’re sloppy and make house dirty. I myself sometimes play with my cats using mask because I know they’re carrying germs from walking around the streets. However, I think that dirtiness still can be washed away. It’s not a big deal.” Many stray cats also usually get near around the food stalls, and that makes some people who eats there disturbed by their presence. “Sometimes they get around us because they smell the food. No matter how many time you asked them to leave, they will eventually stay there as long as the food smell still remains.” No matter how disturbing their presence is, for Yerika, animal abuse is not a wise solution at all. “I think it’s just the same like human. When we hate someone, it’s better to avoid them and walk away without doing any harm to them. So if you hate cats, you can just walk away from it.”
It’s the same thing too for the cat-sweeping activity. “If they catch all the cats on the street and throw them away to the traditional market, there will be another cats coming into this neighborhood because they’re looking for food from people’s trash bin. So it doesn’t solve any problem. The most effective solution they should do is doing sterilization towards the cats, so the cat population can be maintained.” Many animal shelters have suggested that solution to the government, but they don’t care about it. Yerika even wrote a personal letter to the local government regarding that sterilization idea, but until now she didn’t get any answer. “Sterilization is pretty expensive, I know. However, it will solve the problem effectively. Cat-sweeping only temporarily solves problem on the human side, and creates another problem for the cat’s life. Isn’t it unfair?”
To be honest, cat-sweeping is just a little bit of animal abuse that happens in Indonesia. It’s been a common act if people pour boiling water on cats because they entered their house, or kick them when the cats innocently mews for the food. “There was a member of Animal Defender whose cat got kicked into the river. When that person reported the case to the police, they responded the story with laughter. The policemen though that the cat owner is nuts,” said Yerika.
A little act of kindness will definitely be a big help for the cats. “If you have chicken or fish for your meal, you can separate the bones and put it on a sheet of newspaper. Lay it near garbage bin outside your house, so the cats can eat from it without creating a mess around. It’s a simple thing. You only need to be kind in order to do that.”
Well, if you love animal or you really want to make better place for the society, you can also do it in your own way. Yerika’s here to inspire us and make us realize, that we actually have power to make a better society for all the living things, including animals. Just remember, that change starts from within. “I love a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that said, the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.” So, how great has your nation been?