Wednesday, 25 August 2010

MEET: Serena Cowdy of One Small Mouse

This week we are delighted to introduce the tireless Serena Cowdy, the powerhouse behind the wonderful new website, One Small Mouse, a blog which unites people who care about animals with the good causes that need their help.

Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a freelance journalist, copywriter and presenter based in London. When I’m not working, I like poking about in antique shops, reading whodunnits, doing various mountain sports, and photographing wildlife. I'm also a regular volunteer at my fantastic local wildlife hospital - Riverside Animal Centre.

Describe your journey so far.
I have quite an unusual career history - I went to Oxford University and studied Modern History, then trained as an actress for three years at the Central School of Speech and Drama! I finally ended up working as a journalist and presenter, so achieved a balance of sorts...

I started out as a personal finance and consumer rights journalist (think ‘Watchdog’). Now I cover a few different subjects for a number of different clients. The subjects I’m most passionate about are definitely animal welfare, wildlife and the environment. To find out more about what else I've done, visit my professional website at

Photo by Serena Cowdy
What inspired you to work with animals?
I’ve loved animals ever since I was tiny. I would read the James Herriot vet books over and over again, and have happy (if slightly odd) daydreams about becoming a vet and calving cows up in the Yorkshire Dales.

But it wasn’t to be. I got a Saturday job at a local vet’s when I was at school, and found I was allergic to all sorts of animals. Horses are the worst - my reaction to them borders on anaphylactic. I get really asthmatic and then various bits of me come out in a rash or stop functioning.

That’s when I decided that one day, I’d come up with a way of helping animals that didn’t bring me into direct contact with them! I’m very lucky though, because for some reason I’m not too allergic to wild animals, like foxes. I’ve got no idea why, but I count my blessings as it means I can volunteer at my local wildlife hospital.

Tell us how One Small Mouse came into being.
I used to write a personal blog about anything and everything, but found that my passion for wildlife and animal welfare was always rising to the surface. It seemed a natural progression to start up a specialist blog instead, championing the causes I feel strongly about. And as a journalist, it’s great to be able to use my professional skills to really make a difference in that area.

Photo by Serena Cowdy
How does One Small Mouse work?
One Small Mouse unites people who care about animals with the causes that need their help. I’ve chosen to focus on things people can do that don’t require them to spend a lot of money - many people simply can’t afford to make financial donations at the moment, but they really want to help in other ways. So in every post, I try to highlight one small thing people can do to help pets, wildlife or farm animals in need. It could be as simple as giving your old newspapers to your local pet rescue, counting the birds in your back garden or re-tweeting an urgent re-homing request. In other words, I try to show people they don’t need to be rich to help good causes - there are lots of ways to give that won't leave you out of pocket.

How successful has it been so far?
I was really surprised by how quickly One Small Mouse got off the ground - it seemed to touch a chord in people, and I was so grateful for the support and enthusiasm it received. Sometimes I post an appeal and it gets 20 re-tweets within a couple of hours. It’s so gratifying when that happens, because you know the word really is being spread, and a great cause is being flagged up to people I don’t even know.

What are your plans for One Small Mouse going forward?
I’m going to continue in the same vein, and hopefully introduce some competitions to further engage readers and get more people involved. If I could get some animal-friendly celebrities to publicise it, that would be fantastic too. If you’re reading this Sir David, you know where to find me!

Photo by Serena Cowdy
Which animal story has touched you most?
There’s an amazing charity called Nowzad Dogs, which was set up by a Royal Marine called Pen Farthing. Whilst serving out in Afghanistan, Pen saw the horrific conditions the country’s stray dogs had to endure - and made it his mission to help them. He now works to save as many of these dogs as possible, and to improve the welfare of other animals in war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s such an inspiring tale of one man’s selflessness and heroism in incredibly difficult conditions - and it brings a lump to my throat every time I think about it! You can find out more about Nowzad Dogs here.

How can our readers can get involved?
This page of the blog shows readers the main ways they can help. Once they start following One Small Mouse on Twitter - or become a fan on Facebook - they’ll be alerted every time a new appeal is posted. Every appeal includes clear instructions about how each ‘small mouse’ can do his or her bit, so just wait until a particular post touches your heartstrings, and go from there!

If you could be an animal, what would you be?
Ooh, that’s a tough one. I suppose I might be a squirrel. I work with them at the wildlife hospital, and they’re incredibly quick, agile and feisty. They’re really playful and intelligent too, and get up to mischief if you leave them alone for two seconds. I’m a bit of a titch, pretty speedy and always have lots of energy… so perhaps I was a squirrel in a past life. I like to think I’m (marginally) better-behaved though!

Photo by Serena Cowdy
Visit the website One Small Mouse for more information about how to help the charity of your choice.

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