A message from Tamsin Nel,
Founder & Director of SA.MAST
and the SA.MAST Animal Clinic.
Why have I chosen (as tradition dictates) to share this particular end-of-year story with you? I'm fairly certain I'm not the first accidental leader to have experienced so much self-doubt under such trying circumstances - while striving to make bigger and better changes to a country you love. I hope that by revealing my pain and my story about how I almost forgot what I'm capable of, I inspire all those other 'accidental leaders' to remember who they are and what they are capable of!
2018 has been a year of many highs and some very low, low blows.
Some of the highs was that we sterilised almost 3000 Khayelitsha cats and dogs, built and distributed hundreds of kennels, while at the same time continued to treat the sick and the injured.
To keep up with this massive mandate, much of my time and energy has been devoted to raising the funds necessary for SA.MAST to exist in the first place – including the ability to remunerate for services provided and the ability to pay a mountain of veterinary and other operational bills - all to bring as much hope, joy and compassion as is possible to the Khayelitsha community.
When I first conceived of SA.MAST, way back in 2006, and got to work with nothing but a cantankerous PC, telephone and dial-up internet connection (yes, dial-up!) I can honestly say I had no idea how deep, time and time again, I would have to dig to shoulder this burden together with Khayelitsha's special flavour of never ending challenges.
Suffice to say, and while still trying to be the best single mom I can possibly be, tossing and turning till 4am in the morning has become the norm. At times I'm overwhelmed by spontaneous tears of frustration and worry - sometimes accompanied by white hot anger when some few others have taken for granted all the hard work that has come before or all the hard work taking place behind the scenes now so that they can enjoy the fruits of my labour.
Imagine then my sorrow when I recently discovered that people employed to perform a noble and worthwhile activity were in fact using the opportunities afforded to them by SA.MAST to pursue dishonourable agendas. The deceit and manipulation was a gradual affair slowly undermining much of what I hold dear and it truly drove me to the depths of despair.
"Whose bread I eat, his song I must sing."
My biggest mistake throughout this distressing period was to forget who Tamsin is. While standing knee deep in this viper's pit, I allowed my fears and vulnerabilities to dominate – until one day it didn't. I sat down and took a long hard look at myself, the pros, the cons, where I came from, where I've been, what I've done and what I still want to do for myself, our cherished supporters and my country. After all of this I realised something: Tamsin Nel, warts and all, DOES have the power to turn negative energy into something positive and when necessary, clear the path so that others can do so too.
The 2019 year is just around the corner.
To all those amazing people who have stood by me and helped so selflessly to make such a huge difference to our furry friends and the Khayelitsha community they live in, thank you from the depths of my soul and the bottom of my heart. And please remember… when others seek to make you feel small - it is not what they think that matters – it is what you DO next that matters.
See you in the new year and Merry Christmas everyone!