AN EX-BANKER who volunteered at a bear sanctuary last year said the experience has turned her life around.
Jane Bailes, 48, of Hawkdene, Chingford, lost her Royal Bank of Scotland job in the financial crisis last Christmas, but seized the opportunity to fulfil her lifelong dream of helping sick bears.
She spent the following three months at a bear haven in Chengdu, China, where she helped care for 186 rescued moon bears (so-called because of the crescents that line their chests) which had been kept in cages since birth and milked for their bile, which is used in Chinese medicine to treat illnesses from hangovers to haemorrhoids.
A year on, the experience has inspired her to quit the banking sector completely in order to concentrate on doing what she loves - helping animals.
Miss Bailes said: “I have no desire to return to banking. My experience has really changed my outlook on life.
“What I saw was absolutely heart-breaking. It’s horrific. It made me realise that caring for animals is what I wanted to do with my life.”
She now volunteers at Battersea Dogs Home as a kennel support assistant, caring for mistreated canines, as well as having just set up her own dog walking and pet sitting business.
She said: “I was never a high-flying banker but it’s not the money that’s important, it’s making a difference doing something you enjoy.
“There I was working crazy hours for little reward, but this is so much more satisfying.
There aren’t many bears in England not in cages unfortunately but dogs are really poorly treated here. You see some at the home who have been abandoned, or badly hurt by their owners.
“Quite often you just need to be with them so their stay is pleasant, walking them and making them feel loved. I feel I’m making a difference now.”
Miss Bailes believes her training in canine behaviour and psychology at a dog training school and weekends spent working at the Wolf Conservation Trust will help her in her new occupation.
Her website is www.janiepetservices.co.uk.