Causes Week 2016: Aspiring artist draws on love of animals to help shelter dogs

Ms Chew with one of the two cats her family adopted. The 24-year-old hand-letterist, who is selling hand-drawn cards to raise money for Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter, hopes to raise $500 by this month.
Ms Chew with one of the two cats her family adopted. The 24-year-old hand-letterist, who is selling hand-drawn cards to raise money for Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter, hopes to raise $500 by this month.ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

Coming from an animal-loving family that is no stranger to fostering stray dogs, fresh graduate Tiara Chew knows that behind the animal's strong and sometimes intimidating build lies a gentle and loyal creature wanting to be loved, no different from a pedigree dog.

She felt that just standing up for them when they are misunderstood was not enough.

So, being a self-taught hand-letterist who sells hand-drawn cards, the 24-year-old decided to combine two of her loves - art and animals - to give shelter dogs a better home.

The aspiring artist, who draws letters in different styles with just a black pen, and who teaches the craft at weekend workshops, is now selling cards to raise money for Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter.

She became aware of the shelter's need for donations after reading a social media post.

Animal welfare groups and shelters like Oasis Second Chance are always hard-pressed to make ends meet, with some having to shoulder the veterinary bills of up to 100 dogs, and fill their stomachs as well.

"What I can offer them is probably just a small sum in the grand scheme of things but I hope it helps," she said.

She has been selling the cards at hand-lettering workshops that she runs twice a month with lifestyle and design chain Naiise, where she tells people they can pay however much they see fit.

While she usually sells a customised card for $25, Ms Chew said she does not want to force a price on anyone.

"I try to appeal to their generosity by telling them that it is for a good cause," she said.

So far, she has raised around $270 through two workshops, and hopes more money will come in as she conducts more workshops. Her aim is to hit $500 by this month.

She will also be raising more funds for the shelter by selling her hand-drawn cards at flea mar- kets, and is looking at other ways to sell them.

Speaking about her motivation, Ms Chew said that as far as she can remember, she has always had a pet. Once, it was a hamster, then a bird, a fish, a dog she had for 11 years, and now, two cats which her family found at a carpark near their home nine and 10 years ago.

Her late maternal grandfather also used to spin tales of the loyalty and warmth of stray dogs, which she would listen to as a child.

"He also often jokingly said his five dogs would greet him immediately after he reached home, even before his five daughters did," Ms Chew said with a laugh.

She believes that these early memories planted a seed of love for animals in her and inspired her to help them.

Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter co-founder Mary Soo, 69, said vet fees are expensive, and that her monthly expenditure can add up to $10,000 when she includes rental and maintenance costs. Only about half is covered by regular donations, with the rest paid for with money from the shelter's reserves or out of Ms Soo's own pocket.

"Any help we can get is fully appreciated," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2016, with the headline 'Aspiring artist draws on love of animals to help shelter dogs'. Print Edition | Subscribe