Romilly Gray was only four when she had her first interaction helping animals. On a holiday with her family, she redirected a baby turtle back into the sea after it was going the wrong way.
The Dubai schoolgirl has since upped her empathetic and altruistic ways.
When the Gray family moved from Newcastle to Dubai, one of the first things Romilly, 10, noticed was how many abandoned and stray animals there were. Romilly says she can’t help but sympathise with them and even understand how difficult it must be for them on the streets.
“I find it easy to put myself in their shoes,” Romilly tells The National. “And it just makes me really sad.”
Wanting to help, she decided to act by creating homemade dog biscuits. She donated the proceeds to K9 Friends, an animal rescue group in Dubai, which she has visited with her family. So far, she’s been able to raise about Dh2,000 in sales.
Another reason Romilly feels for animals is because of her affection for her cockapoo dog, Ori, who her mother, Aisling, says is the love of her life. The homemade dog biscuits that don’t end up getting sold go to Ori.
“We’ve had two foster dogs, and Ori didn’t like it,” she says with a laugh. “She liked having all the attention to herself.”
It isn’t only at home that Romilly has stepped up for animals, either. As a student at Arcadia School in JVT, she has also created a club for her classmates called Animals Lovers of Arcadia, to unite others who are interested in helping.
The core group from the club meets every week and discusses several topics, including how to raise awareness. Romilly describes what a past meeting for members looks like when they were working on a project.
“Half of it is just talking and then we made this massive poster thing,” she says. “Everyone added pictures of animals to it, and then people have done things like bake sales in their communities.”
Giles Pruett, the principal of Arcadia, says he is impressed with Romilly’s enthusiasm and passion for animal welfare, calling her a “beacon for others to lead the way”. He believes that having a club that focuses on animal welfare also benefits children in the long run.
“Becoming better citizens through altruistic actions is our very first school value,” says Pruett.
“We want our children and students to leave school with a genuine drive to support others and to contribute to the global, regional or local community for reasons of collectivism and empathy.
“Becoming interested in, and supporting, marginalised areas of society such as animal welfare is an excellent way to grow and develop these altruistic feelings. As the world becomes increasingly more connected, our children will be moving into a mature society where collective action will be fundamentally important.”
Going forward, Romilly hopes to be able to continue helping animals. When she initially started making the dog biscuits, her mum put out a WhatsApp message to the local dog community asking if they wanted to support the venture.
They were approached by the owner of the dog-friendly Aria and Bianca’s Bubble Tea Cafe, who asked to stock the homemade dog treats. The first 20 bags sold out relatively quickly. The family were then contacted by dog day-care centres Paws and Friends and The Barking Lot.
Romilly hopes to continue to raise funds for animal rescue organisations, as well as organising more bake sales through school.
She hopes, too, that others consider the part they can play in helping out animals. “They don’t have their own voice,” she says. “Humans can ask for something they need, but animals can’t.”
Updated: October 31, 2023, 11:33 AM