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I am honoring Irina because she does what her heart believes is the right thing to do, despite the hardships that it means for her personally.
I wanted to share the story about my hero - a woman named Irina. On this day of discussing and raising awareness about women's struggles, I want to share the struggles that Irina faces on a daily basis. While Irina herself is not in a life-threatening situation, she is making a positive change in a dark corner of the world.
Irina lives in Romania, which is not a third world country, but it is a poor country that is still struggling to get on its feet following a Communist regime. There is a lot of poverty. Like a lot of other struggling countries, Romania has a problem with stray street dogs. Tens of thousands of dogs are living and dying in the city streets, in the trash dumps, in the empty fields, and in the government run "shelters", which are actually just holding tanks until the dogs are killed.
Irina and her mother care for over 70 dogs. The provide them with food, water, and shelter, provide them with medical care and vaccinations, and hopefully find permanent homes for them. Just last Fall they had to move these dogs across the country to a family homestead because they were being evicted from the current location where the dogs were located. Irina did not intend for her whole life to be consumed with dog rescue, but Irina has a huge heart that is full of compassion and love and she cannot leave a helpless soul to die. What started as just helping a few animals in her neighborhood, turned into an all encompassing job, as there was no one else who would help these dogs - helpless ophaned puppies, dogs with life-threatening injuries, old blind dogs, and those being abused by people as they tried to survive.
Irina works tirelessly to make sure that her dogs are well cared for - building shelters by hand with scrap materials, hauling water to frozen buckets in the snow, treating injuries and medical issues by herself. And what is truly amazing about all of this is that Irina does it with a smile and a sense of humor. So even if you aren't a dog lover, you still can appreciate a woman who is pouring her heart into something that she believes in. Irina is making the world a better place, one dog at a time.
This story was submitted as part of Oxam America's International Women's Day initiative to honor women working to right the wrongs of poverty and hunger. Honorees are selected independently by Oxfam supporters. Selection does not imply endorsement or other support from Oxfam America.
Do you know a woman who's making a difference in the fight against poverty, hunger, and injustice? Share her story with the Oxfam community as inspiration on International Women's Day!