On Friday, August 11, Veterinarians International (VI), along with Katie Cleary, Christine Evangelista, Susan Rockefeller, Zara Beard, and Dwayne Hill are hosting the annual Trunks Of Love Gala, which will fête Dr. Jane Goodall, Cornelia Guest, and Penni Ludwig with honored guests Jane Gill, Bruce Weber and Nan Bush, at DOPO La Spiaggia in East Hampton.
We recently caught up with Veterinarians International Founder Dr. Scarlett Magda about this year’s honorees, hosts, the organization’s future, and more.
“Our programs are growing and we’re getting a lot of support,” Dr. Magda told Hamptons.com. “We’re heading in the right direction.”
What inspired you to found Veterinarians International?
SM: My parents. I grew up from two doctors who emigrated from Eastern Europe and they struggled to get their life back and gave my brother and I an incredible upbringing. Since I was 16 I had been traveling mostly to Latin America and I volunteered at the Belize Zoo. I hand-reared a baby spider monkey – that was when I was in high school. Those experiences stuck with me and when I was in vet school I had met one of the gentlemen, Lord Robin Russell, that was a founder of Elephant Family in the UK and he explained the Asian elephant welfare crisis to me. From that day on I had committed to wanting to help Asian elephants. Obviously we have other programs, but my personal connection and focus is with the Asian elephant.
Could you please tell me a little bit about recent accomplishments?
SM: We have purchased two 4 x 4 vehicles with the generosity of Penni Ludwig, who we’re honoring at this year’s gala and those vehicles are mobile elephant clinics that have been customized by Lush Cosmetics. The trucks have refrigeration units, darts, medical supplies, and they drive around in elephant kingdom to provide care to 200 elephants, because up until now there wasn’t daily care. There was a vet that would come as needed, and our partner would go twice a year, so with our partnership, we’ve been able to grow the efforts to full-time vet care. I’ve been working on it for eight years and it’s taken this long to get the right partner and working with the government is essential because they’re so instrumental in change and being leaders within the country. Having these strong relationships with influential partners is reassuring to trying to achieve our end goal which is optimal Asian elephant health and welfare.
What made you select this year’s Trunks of Love Gala honorees?
SM: Penni Ludwig was instrumental in permitting this program to get off the ground. With her donating the money to buy the trucks, we were than able to apply to Lush Cosmetics to get the customization. I just came back from a donor trip with 10 philanthropists and National Geographic that showed them what we’re starting. So Penni was a critical angel in that. Cornelia Guest has also been supportive since our start. I respect her so much for dedicating her life to animal welfare. She has a vegan handbag line which is stunning – that is available at Bloomingdales and online – and she has a vegan catering company and she’s sold their famous estate on Long Island to buy a sanctuary up in Columbia County and she rescues all kinds of animals and gives them the best life she can. And then of course Dr. Jane Goodall… Our theme is the human/animal bond so we wanted three different honorees – women was a coincidence, it just happened that it was three women – but they’ve all done amazing things to enhance our organization and the human/animal bond and Jane has the Roots & Shoots program, which is in over 100 countries. It allows children to take part in the environment around them and appreciate the environment which is so critical to our future.
Katie Cleary, Christine Evangelista and Dwayne Hill are hosting the Trunks of Love Gala. How did they get involved with the organization?
SM: I met Katie at the Hamptons International Film Festival last fall and within 30 seconds of meeting me and hearing about the Gala she offered to host it, so I wasn’t going to say no to World Animal News and I love what she does. She’s on the foreground around breaking news around the world. Dwayne and Christine I was at a champagne dinner at the Waverly Inn and they were sitting across the table from me and we bonded instantaneously. Dwayne has been an incredible ambassador and friend since then. Christine reconnected with me through Dwayne, actually, and she was immediately hooked when I explained our program. She asked what she could do and I said you’d be an awesome ambassador. She’s a great spokesperson and she loves animals. She actually came to Thailand with us for the launch of the Asian elephant vet care program and asks all the time what she can do to help. She’s flying in for the day from Vancouver because she’s doing the second season of The Arrangement, and she’s found a way to get to East Hampton despite her crazy schedule. So there’s a lot of gratitude. I feel so honored that these incredible people are getting behind us to support this message.
What will proceeds from Trunks of Love support?
SM: We just launched a Women, Goats and Peace project in Kenya this year. We’re working with 240 families that live in one of the most arid environments in Kenya and they’re suffering from a severe drought. The only thing that can grow there are shrubs. Irrigating crops is really not a realistic option and cattle are pretty intensive to manage, so we’re trying to work with animals that are not too intense on the environment that are culturally appropriate. We have a goat milk program that sponsors 240 families that we provide the vet care to the goats and then Sauti Moja is the name of the community-based organization, they’ve been in existence for over a decade – they’re our partner and they work with the women to give them a microcredit system, so the goat has to breed, they pass on the offspring to another family, and then they can sell the other offspring so it self-perpetuates. The milk is their only source of protein and nourishment. It’s a beautiful program in that the animal is helping the families survive and the men have died from either aids or conflict – there’s conflict for land use, rights, and so the program encourages women from different backgrounds and religions to come together to support one and another through the goat and the passing off of the offspring. That’s why we have the word peace in the title.
With Veterinarians International being an international organization, why did you choose the Hamptons for your gala location?
SM: I live in Sag Harbor, so I naturally wanted my community to be involved in what we do and there’s so many familiarly minded people here that travel and understand the need for global support.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
SM: We have a dog program in Guatemala. It focuses on teaching empathy to children so they’re kinder to dogs and it decreases their chances of getting bitten so their risk of rabies goes down, and our partner, the Global Alliance for Animals and People, has a low cost clinic for dogs in Chile. They work with families one by one to change their perspective of dogs, because as you know, dogs are roaming around and they’re actually owned, but people are not aware that it’s their responsibility to keep them on their property. So we work one family at a time to train the dogs with the families so they learn how to sit and stay, which blows their mind. They had no idea the dog was capable of such things and that they need to build them a dog house or bring them into the home. When they see the behavioral changes they get so excited. We’re more focused on changing cultural behaviors; we want to get to the root of the problem, which is how dogs are managed. There’s also a disease, a tapeworm, that’s going from sheep to dog to human that can be prevented from hand washing and from deworming the dog. This tapeworm typically starts out in the liver or lungs, typically of children, because they’re playing in the dirt and they put their hands to their mouth, which leads to transmission. That’s why we stress the hand wash part. For 10 cents you can deworm the dog, so we try to work with public health campaigns that run through the clinic to educate the client on the disease. Zoonosis, or diseases that go between human and animals, are a big focus of our message. We want people to that more disease comes from animal to people from any other source, so we have to have healthy animals if you want to have healthy people.
For more information about Veterinarians International, visit vetsinternational.org.