With over 270 million people living in Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populated country, you may be surprised to learn that there is only one farmed animal sanctuary across the entire archipelago. Loo Shih Loong and Sing Hui established Sehati Animal Sanctuary (formerly known as My Home My Animals Haven) in Dumai on the island of Sumatra. “Sehati” means “one heart” in Bahasa Indonesia, and encompasses their belief that compassion makes all our hearts beat as one.
I stumbled across Sehati Animal Sanctuary by pure chance. A picture of Loong and Sing on my Instagram Explore Page had caught my eye. They were humbly dressed, and each held a dog, while squatting in the mud among several pigs. Another picture attached to the post featured Loong shoveling out pools of water that had formed underneath a tarpaulin structure sheltering 10 or so pigs. As I dug further through their Instagram profile, I became increasingly moved by what I saw. This couple was living the bare minimum, yet they were pouring so much love and effort into caring for their rescue animals. At the time, they didn’t even have electricity on their property. This was in February 2020, but my admiration for Loong and Sing, who single-handedly care for these animals, has grown ever since.
Journey to Veganism
Loong and Sing lived ordinary lives working in the city prior to establishing the sanctuary. While Loong was born in Kuala Lumpur, Sing was born in Tanjung Pinang before moving to Kuala Lumpur at a young age. However, in 2014 Sing moved to Dumai to care for her elderly mother, who unfortunately passed away in November 2016. Deeply saddened by her loss, Sing adopted three piglets (Lucky, CeCe and MeiMei) from her uncle, a pig farmer, while her father cared for two piglets (Alok and Mary). In January 2017, Sing’s father wanted to return the pigs to her uncle to be sold for slaughter. Sing and Loong both outright refused, and Loong left his home city to join his wife in Dumai. Since then, all five pigs have lived safely under their care.
At this point, Loong and Sing had started to reduce their meat consumption after becoming aware of animal cruelty and veganism on social media. However, life in the village quickly exposed them to the reality of how meat was “produced” when they saw a pig being slaughtered before their very eyes. They recall seeing her defecate due to sheer stress and fear, and hearing her screams undeniably expressing her desire to live. They could do nothing to save her, but vowed to go vegan, and dedicate their lives to supporting farmed animals. Hence, this pig changed the course of their lives forever.
Sehati Animal Sanctuary
Loong and Sing never intended to start a farmed animal sanctuary—they just wanted to rescue animals and give them a better life. However, with huge hearts they took in more animals than they bargained for, and soon used up all their savings. Their relatives were highly critical, and couldn’t understand why Loong and Sing would want to make their lives difficult, and spend all their time and money on rescuing animals. They only saw these animals as food, and wanted them to sell the animals to make their money back. However, Loong and Sing stood firm, and stayed positive. They knew they had to push forward, and this eventually led them to establishing Sehati Animal Sanctuary.
Sehati Animal Sanctuary is currently home to 43 pigs, 2 wild boars, 41 dogs, 9 cats, 15 tortoises, 6 rabbits, 3 sheep, 2 goats, 2 turkeys, over 50 chickens, and 30 ducks. Loong and Sing have a particularly special connection to pigs after everything they knew about these animals proved to be wrong. They point out that pigs are clean animals, have similar DNA to humans, and are even smarter than dogs. Loong and Sing tirelessly work over 10 hours a day at their sanctuary. While they hire local workers to help tend to the land, Loong and Sing directly care for the animals on their own.
Until recently, Loong and Sing have also had to do all the fundraising on their own. When all their funds ran dry, they were forced to sell 1.5 hectares of their 4.8 hectares of land. They also had to borrow money from family members, and pawn their gold. The sanctuary is largely reliant on donations from those who happened to find their Facebook and Instagram pages. Fortunately, a group of friends from Bali heard about the sanctuary in December 2020, and have stepped in to help. This group of friends are committed to raising money to make the sanctuary more sustainable through growing their own food for the animals, installing solar panels, and erecting sturdier animal shelters.
With the help of this group, alongside international off-site volunteers, Sehati Animal Sanctuary now has a website up and running. You’ll find that there are several ways to get involved. Small donations can make a big difference—$10 USD can buy 150 kg of cucumber to feed the animals for two days. The sanctuary’s residents will also be up for adoption soon, whereby you can directly support each animal and their need for food, bedding, and medication. If you’re looking for something more hands-on, you can consider visiting the sanctuary to volunteer for an extended period. Those of us outside of Indonesia can volunteer behind the scenes while we wait for borders to safely reopen. Email [email protected] to get involved. Last but not least, don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth—share the sanctuary over social media, or with friends and family over dinner. A little certainly does go a long way.
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Photo: Sehati Animal Sanctuary