Five minutes with Narelle Pamuk

Narelle Pamuk, Sai Kung
Nicole Slater meets the chairperson of Sai Kung Stray Friends

To say running a dog shelter in Sai Kung was not intentional for Narelle Pamuk would be an understatement. As the founder of her own property agency Peninsula Properties Hong Kong, Pamuk spent most of her early years working as a property specialist on the sought after areas of Repulse Bay, Deepwater Bay & Stanley on the southside of Hong Kong Island.

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Growing up in Australia, Pamuk started her career as a model in Queensland before turning her attention to the property market. Along with her husband Dr Werner Pamuk moved to Magnetic Island where she set up her first business, Magnetic Quay Realty.

After honeymooning in the city, Pamuk fell in love with Hong Kong’s fast-paced life and continued to visit every holiday. “After living on a tropical island, which is everybody’s dream, you start to think about what’s next.” ….she sold her company, packed up the family and they relocated to Hong Kong in 1996.

But the quiet village life soon enticed the family and they brought a house in Sai Kung 10 years later. Pamuk and her husband always had a soft spot for animals and they rescued their own dogs as a litter from Tai Tam. “I had just moved to Sai Kung and was in Shenzhen getting some beds ordered for our dogs when these two ladies overheard me give me address Sai Kung and radared in on me”.

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Pamuk went on to find out that the ladies had started their own rescue group, Sai Kung Stray Friends Society. “As they were leaving the country they asked if I would just put up my ID in order to keep the society running. Little did I know what was to come.”

“No sooner than me saying I’d help them, they left Hong Kong. I started out doing what they did, sitting outside Starbucks finding homes for puppies and dogs. But as they kept coming in, I quickly used my own home to shelter them.”

After taking in seven dogs, she soon realised it wasn’t a sustainable practice and began searching for a shelter to provide a temporary home for the pups. “It cost $1,000 per dog each month. We didn’t make that in our donation box. I started using the money from my own business and knew I couldn’t keep doing that forever.”

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Many in the community know the struggles Sai Kung Stray Friends Foundation has had keeping its shelter. Pamuk even sold her own property company to buy the shelter outright, but was outbid at the last moment. This continues to be an ongoing battle for the charity, with rent outweighing all other costs including food and veterinary bills.

Despite this, Pamuk continues to keep a positive mindset and is proud of everything the shelter has done. “It’s a home for homeless dogs. I want them to live to the same standard like they were in a home, they have blankets and home cooked meals everyday. The dogs in our facility can have a better life than in some homes,” she says.

While this was never on the cards for Pamuk, she believes that it was destiny. “There’s been a lot of hurt, endless stress and anxiety but you know what, as down as you can get, it’s all worth it when you get to the shelter and all those beautiful, happy faces jump up and want to cuddle and kiss you. It makes all that hardship feel worth it. We’re there through thick and thin and to always help dogs to have a better life. ‘Stray Friends family’, I like to call it.”

You can sponsor a dog at SKSFF for $300 per month. The sponsorship includes biscuits and one hot meal a day for the dogs.

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