Venezuelan Canadian Society of BC

Saving puppies one hallaca at a time

Spanish article written by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud / Translated into English by Alexandra Cruz A.

If you happen to be in the mailing list for Venezuelans in Vancouver, you have probably read about Graciela León and her business Mis Deliciosas Hallacas.

Although the name may seem pretty self-explanatory, Graciela explores other talents besides the culinary art through her business. Inspired by the maxim of “He that gives to the poor will not lack”, this woman from Caracas donates part of her profit to support five families in hardship back in Venezuela and, at the same time, to several organizations dedicated to rescuing stray dogs in different cities of the country.

Often, Graciela donates the entirety of her income.

Her work with the families in question started five years ago, and three years ago she began to work with stray dogs. What motivated Graciela to help the families was food and medicine scarcity.

Her work with stray dogs was driven by a personal experience she had with a Shar Pei she saw at a bakery: “I noticed that it was hungry and thirsty. I bought some water and a croissant and fed it to the dog. It devoured it. Its skin was in bad shape; the poor fellow had dermatitis, cists, fleas, ticks, and who knows what else”, she retells. Graciela wanted to take the dog with her but a family member dissuaded her from doing so. After a few hours, she went back to the bakery but the dog was nowhere to be found. “I went back for several days to leave water and dog food, but it just disappeared. That changed my life”, she says.

That was the first time Graciela went back to Venezuela after a decade living outside the country. What she experienced with that Shar Pei was irrefutable proof of what she noticed as soon as she got off the plane: the country’s crisis was not only affecting people but also animals. “The whole city was filled with stray dogs. It’s almost as if they were part of the decoration of the streets. People walking saw them but didn’t notice them. Some of them were really sick, others malnourished, or hit by cars, or just hit by the hardships of life”, she remembers.

Back in Canada, Graciela decided she needed to do something about it. She started researching organizations who worked in animal welfare but she feared that her donations would be used towards something different than what she originally intended.

Nonetheless, after much research, she found staff within organizations like Huellitas de Amor, Famproa, Fundación Anzoátegui among others who showed her the ways they use the donations they received and who let her know what resources they needed the most. Since then, Graciela hasn’t stopped helping them: “I help around 400 dogs in Venezuela”, she states.

The money doesn’t originate from the hallacas, ham bread, and chicken salad she sells in December. Throughout the year, Graciela also prepares typical Venezuelan home-made food and sells it at a very low cost in the hopes to collect funds for her causes and, at the same time, provide affordable options for those who want to have a tasty meal on a budget.

“With this small business and with your support we can accomplish a lot of things”, she claims.

To support Graciela and enjoy her delicious food, you can contact her at gracielaleonr@hotmail.com

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