Including Sooryong, the well-known cute mascot of Sungshin, there are lovely creatures who grab the attention of Crystals. On Everytime (an online school community) and Instagram, fellow students cannot help talking about the nine furry animals of the Soojung campus, the stray cats of Sungshin. Nine cats have been residing in our school as if they are the spirit animals of the school site. Like a famous Korean idiom ‘Wherever a thread goes, a needle follows’, wherever there are cats, certainly the butlers will follow. The Sungshin Butlers, a rising school club, is drawing attention through their benevolent and earnest sharing of love toward the nine cats. Meet the caretakers of Sungshin cats, the Sungshin Butlers!
What motivated you to open the club, the ‘Sungshin Butlers’?
In the second semester of 2018, a few students started to look after Soojung campus’s cats after cheese-cat Minhyun’s leg surgery. However, we faced the limitation as there were only a small number of people to manage the caring for cats. So, we looked for more students who would buy cat food and feed them together.
By 2019, we had lots of concerns on cats’ lives afterward as most of cooperating Soojung-is have graduated or about to. The cats will remain in the campus even after we leave. To grant better well-being for cats, we made a decision to establish the club.
We got our name from creative Soojungs’ participations through a naming contest. It is very common in Korea for cat owners to call themselves ‘butlers’. Due to “cattitude” (meaning the haughty attitude of cats), it looks like the caretakers are serving the four-legged feline as their masters. Thus, the ‘Sungshin Butlers’ was the nominee that received the most votes.
We started the club with three members, but through three stages of recruitment, we are now with 23 trustworthy butlers.
What are the main routines of the Butlers?
We have four major routines: food distribution, cleaning, helping the sick and running our Instagram account. Everyday our basic routine starts with food distribution. Twice a day, we serve meals and replenish water for cat and we clean up their food and water stations. Most significantly, we provide medication for cats who have stomatitis which is a common sickness of alley cats. Other than that, we are actively working on managing and designing photos for our recently opened Instagram account: @sungshincats.
When was the most fruitful moment through club activities?
Last year, a cat named Woori suddenly disappeared. It usually resides in the Administration building. But soon, we found it near the Plastic Arts building and we felt at ease to see Woori again. Since it had been suffering from stomatitis, we were worried about Woori very much. Sometimes, we had to wait for two hours for Woori to come out since it was shy and expressed wariness toward us. As time passed, it started to appear much more often to the members and take the medicine well, seeming a bit opened to us. It was the most memorable moment to us. We feel fulfilled through seeing trivial moments like when we see cats are having a good appetite, taking medication and grooming well. We are blessed and felt it was worthwhile being butlers.
It might have been a tough year to operate the club due to COVID-19. How did you manage the activities? Are there any related episodes?
Since the school was not open for a while due to COVID-19, we were unable to provide foods for cats. So, we got help from fellow students who live nearby the Soojung campus to feed them.
Recently during the entrance examination period, one of cats, Aegi was intrigued by the tent which was installed for body temperature check-up. It went inside and spent time playing in there. Also, in this year’s summer, when there was a sit-down of the student council, Aegi also went inside the tent and spent time together. As Aegi is the youngest among the cats, the kitten shows lots of cute and childlike behaviors.
Are there any unique point to the Sungshin Butlers?
The huge merit as butlers is that we can capture the lovely moments of cats more often. We are able to watch their childlike charm and showing affection to us. While we are on our duties every day, we are able to feel that the cats are opening heart to us. When feeling those senses, it is miraculous and makes us realize that being responsible for a living being’s life is such an invaluable experience. Furthermore, feeding requires lots of energy as we walk through the whole campus. All the butlers are diligently and vigorously working without any compensation. We learn a lot from each other’s tenacity and passion too.
It seems like the Sungshin Butlers has a sense of volunteering. What are the club’s motivation to carry on with your duties?
We regard cats as our real friends. Imagine that you make a lunch appointment at Soojung campus with your friends. You would never forget and keep a promise. It’s exactly the same. Every day the felines are waiting for the appointment. They wait all day long for us to feed them and give them medicine. The more friends there are, the bigger responsibility that is required. The pledge we made with cats directly extends to the responsibility of their lives and survivals. Thus, it made us to be more dedicated and to take our duties seriously.
As harsh winter is coming, it will be hard for street cats to survive. Are there any tips for helping stray cats that Butlers can share with the readers?
During winter, water freezes and cats are exposed to dehydration which consequently causes health complications. For Sungshin cats, we use water bowls that can accommodate a heat-able pack beneath it to prevent water from freezing. Last year we used hot packs that were donated from Soojungs.
Plus, the majority of people tend to carry Churu (a cat’s treat) for their sudden encounters with street cats. However, it contains lots of salt which is critical for street cats who are usually deficient in hydration. Rather than treating them with a Churu, it is wholesome for them to be provided with chicken breasts or warm water to sustain them through the cold winter.
What are Sungshin Butlers’ future plans and hopes?
This year we applied for the school’s official central club. We wish our club will continue to operate in the long-term for our school cats’ happy and healthy lives.
In the upcoming year, we would like to open a campaign with Soojungs for improving the awareness of street cats. Moreover, we would like to establish donations via gathering funds by selling merchandise at the annual school festival. When the COVID-19 situation is settled, we are hoping to do volunteer work for both street dogs and cats.
The cats’ welfare is achieved by the generous charity made by Soojungs. All of the expenses are only used for Sungshin cats and consumption details are clearly opened to the public every month. To carry on our activities, we ask for many people’s interest and support. Please keep an eye on us with warm support and affection.
By Kim ChaiWon Deputy Editor-in-Chief (firstname.lastname@example.org)