MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Mercury series
A Wollongong animal crusader has enlisted the support of one of the world's best comedians to help save moon bears in Asia, held captive in tiny cages and milked for their bile.
Knowing how staging a fund-raising event for something so serious could be confronting, Kristie Poole recognised the value of comic relief.
At her last fund-raiser in 2010, there was barely a dry eye in the house when she played a video about Animals Asia Foundation's bear rescue work.
But the night was still fun and those present had such a good time, many kept asking when Ms Poole was going to do it again.
So she set about enlisting the support of Arj Barker, who has agreed to perform a one-off-show at Illawarra IPAC on May 1. Ms Poole became more determined than ever to try and stop bear farming after she staged the Money For Honey fund-raiser in 2010 and then travelled to China to hand-deliver the $40,000 raised in Wollongong.
She paid her own way to the bear rescue sanctuary where she took photos so she could raise even more money for the cause she is so passionate about.
"I want every single dollar that is raised to go to rescuing bears," she said.
Now Ms Poole is giving Wollongong another opportunity to show its generosity at The Best of Arj Barker - Comedy For A Cause show at the IMB Theatre.
The 480 tickets are now on sale at IPAC.
Ms Poole heard about Arj Barker's love of animals while she was securing signed merchandise for her 2010 fund-raiser. Then, after she emailed him a video on the Animals Asia Moon Bear Rescue Campaign, he agreed to support the next event and nominated a date around the Sydney leg of his next Australian tour.
"He is a funny man but he is also very passionate about animal welfare and the environment," Ms Poole said.
Another comedian, Clint Paddison, is going to MC and do the support act. Animals Asia founder Jill Robinson is also flying in for the event.
"She is just so passionate and incredible to listen to," Ms Poole said.
"If I had the choice of any two people in the world to go on a dinner date with it would be her and Arj Barker. Now I get to almost share [it won't be a dinner show] that dream with Wollongong."
Interest is presently being sought from anyone interested in donating items for a silent auction.
And there are already plans to stage another event in 18 months.
"I really think there is going to come a time in the not too distant future where we will be able to look back and say Wollongong had something to do with the end of bear farming," Ms Poole said. "Twenty out of 31 provinces in China are now bear farm free so we are nearly there."
MOON BEAR FACTS
Also known as the Asian black bear or white chested bear, their bile is used in traditional Chinese medicine, even though cheap and effective herbal and synthetic alternatives are readily available.
The bears are known as moon bears because of the golden crescents on their chests.
The bears can spend up to 20 years in coffin-sized cages where they are milked daily for their bile, often through crude, filthy catheters.