Not a job, but a calling

Saving those without a voice

13 September 2019 | Others

Mariselle Stofberg

Saving orphaned and injured animals might be a phase some children go through, but Sylvia Breitenstein’s passion for animals and their welfare has been present throughout her life.

She was born in Cape Town, but spent her childhood and life in Namibia.

“I have always been the child who took care of orphan birds, while spending time on the farm during every holiday. We never had a farm, but somehow I managed to visit one all the time. I brought home numerous geese, chicken chicks and even a calf once, whose mother had died and it needed bottle-feeding,” Breitenstein said.

She had very patient parents who helped her to learn that all animals deserve to be treated with respect and receive the right care.

Breitenstein is currently the branch manager of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Windhoek and has devoted more than 20 years to animals and animal welfare.

“Being branch manager loosely translates to being chief cook and bottle-washer. I do everything and anything that is needed for the smoother running of the facility.” Breitenstein is a part of all the operations at the SPCA, from cleaning kennels to behaviour assessments and office work. Her journey at the SPCA started when she was only 12 years old and has since then she has continued to prosper and grow.

“I started volunteering at SPCA when I was 12. There was a really nice manager at the time, who taught me about animal welfare and how to correctly look after pets. When I later studied in South Africa, I worked for a vet part-time and volunteered at the Animal Anti-Cruelty League.”

Upon returning to Namibia she attended a SPCA annual general meeting (AGM) and was voted onto the organisation’s committee. Halfway through her term, a job opened up at the Swakopmund SPCA, which she took. She was then offered a position at SPCA Windhoek and has made a profound impact on the organisation.

“I had the opportunity to help animals and change their lives for the better, but they have also in turn had a positive impact on my life. Even years after I have worked with them, I still check up on them. It is wonderful to see that they are doing so well and that they still remember me.”

Breitenstein has an exceptional memory that has helped her throughout her career.

“About 90% of the time I can recognise an animal that has been a part of the SPCA just by sight.”

Her knowledge of animal welfare and hands-on experience gained throughout the years has been a great asset to the SPCA.

“Every day at the organisation is different and brings new challenges, which we have never seen before. It always keeps you on your toes. Animals and their welfare motivates me to get up in the morning. I may not help all of them, but being able to help just one or two a day, by making their lives better, makes a difference.”