It’s good to be back with a new chapter of the Neve showcase series! This time, we’re moving away from web design and impossible clients to a different type of customer: cuddly cats. Before sharing more details about this, a few considerations on people doing good.
Theme developers that have been here for a while remember the times when there was a theme for every niche: restaurant, music, sports, lawyers, etc. Among them, charity was also a popular category. I was surprised (in a good way) that the internet showed interest in helping non-profit organizations. Even now, there are over 300 charity themes on Envato and 60 on WordPress.org. Numbers give us hope. But when you meet someone that has given their heart and mind to volunteer work, you start to believe it’s possible to change things for the better.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Jorge Calle, one of the volunteers for the Segunda Oportunidad cat shelter in Quito, Ecuador. He wanted to adopt a pet and ended up building a site for cat adoptions and donations and dreaming about organizing tour visits to the shelter outside the city. He was up at 8 am to have the call with me and I was curious to learn about the new website but also about the situation in Ecuador and how the shelter is run. In the end, we talked for almost two hours.
Disclaimer: I have a cat at home and I am part of a WhatsApp group for cat lovers, but I was not biased in any way to prioritize this showcase.
Jorge Calle on his experience with WordPress and Neve
Do you remember your first website project?
I studied systems engineering and there was an university project where we were asked to start a blog. I used Blogger for that project. I liked the activity of publishing your thoughts, especially about technology in my case. There was a point after one year when I felt the need for something more powerful and, between Joomla and WordPress, WordPress was the winner for me. It was hard to believe that something that’s so good was free.
The first website was commissioned by my friends. They wanted a website for their school and that was my first WordPress job in a way.
How long have you been with Segunda Oportunidad cat shelter in Quito?
In February 2020, it will be two years since I’ve joined the cat shelter.
We try to maintain a very horizontal organization where no one is the leader, but everyone can start a project and collaborate the best way they can. Our volunteers have such great abilities, they know a lot about cats’ health and how to treat them if they are sick. I don’t have so much experience or knowledge as they do so I thought maybe I could help build their website. At that moment they only had a Facebook profile, not even a page.
I’d say this is a new experience for me because I’m teaching people how to use WordPress. It’s really interesting because I could say it’s the first time that I get the chance to build a site for an organization and also be the one to use it. Usually, the way it works is that you build this beautiful site for someone and they get to manage it and make good use of it, or to just have it lay there forever. My purpose is that it’s not just me who’s taking care of the site, but I build a solid platform that everyone can use.
How many cats are there in the shelter on average?
I would say around 70 cats. There was one point when we reached 100 cats.
Another thing that’s worth mentioning is that the shelter is a place for adult cats. As for kittens, we usually have these temporary homes in place. It’s because the bigger cats won’t let them eat or they wouldn’t be too nice to them.
How long did it take to build and launch the new site?
To be honest, it was a long way. It’s good to have a horizontal organisation but since most of the work they do is more of an in-person activity they don’t like to work on documentation so much. So it was kind of hard for me because I had to gather information from different people. “How do you manage this?”, “Any process that we can make easier?” It was easy to get the site ready, at least the basics, in one month and tweak it for another one or two months but then the information itself, that was the harder part. It kind of took around 10 months but most of that time was gathering information instead of working on the site itself.
I’m not the most recent member on the team but I respect a lot the people who have been here for 5-10 years already. So I was always looking for permission from everyone. “When do you think we should meet?”, “Should we be doing this?”, “Should we be doing that?”. And then one day the founder of the shelter told me don’t ask for permission, because if you ask for permission, people will start discussing and at the end of the discussion they will forget about it and nothing will be done. So I was like okay people I’m starting with this. I was making the decisions. I would write the content instead of asking them to create it from zero. Even if it wasn’t very accurate, they’d notice and suggest changes.
How did you choose the theme for this WordPress project?
By that time, Gutenberg was already out so I started looking for a Gutenberg theme. Previously, I used WP Bakery which is fine but if I wanted other members of the shelter to be able to change just one word in a page asking them to use this page builder was kind of difficult.
I wanted to make sure I would find a theme developer with experience so I decided to search for themes on WordPress.org. The one I liked the most was Neve because of its design. I made sure to look at the documentation and it was very detailed. I accessed your site and saw that your organization was awesome. I gave Neve a try and installed it locally to see how it works. I liked Neve’s custom blog options and also the companion plugin that you provide – Otter Blocks.
It was my first experience with a theme and Gutenberg because in the past I had only used Gutenberg in the post editor. But right now I was getting a glimpse at how it works within a theme that used it as an option to personalize everything.
What are your favorite WordPress tools?
One of the first plugins I always install on my sites is the Maintenance plugin. Another plugin that I use a lot is Loco Translate especially since many of the sites that I have worked on are in Spanish and many of the plugins include language files. I think another basic one is the Jetpack plugin especially because of the stats and the notifications if the site is down.
A plugin that is not so known is Pets WP, which offers a solution for shelters. The plugin basically creates a new custom post type and you get the chance to manage the page (in our case, the cats). Another thing that I like is that it allows you to add as many fields as you need. We don’t use them because we don’t like people to be too picky about cats but this plugin provides the option to add different fields. You can add more about the cat’s behavior or if it’s vaccinated. So we have all these custom fields that are very useful because they meet our very specific needs. And one great thing is that it has an integration with the GiveWP plugin. So you have the option to receive donations for the cats that you publish on the site.
I have recently started to use Child Theme Configurator. It helps you automatically generate a child theme. What else? Code Snippets plugin is also kind of a nice recent plugin. I like it because it allows you to actually add functions to the plugins or to the theme code snippets. For backups. I use UpdraftPlus. I really like this one because it’s free of course and the other reason is that it’s very straightforward. You need to set it up one time and then you will know It will be working.
Oh, I almost forget about this, one that I always use is Yoast SEO plugin. I really love it.
How many hours a week do you work for the shelter?
For this project, I was using like two hours a day, 10 hours a week. If I’m not working on something big with a timeline, I’d say it’s between 2 or 3 hours during a working week.
We are trying to go to the shelter once or twice a month. We are not required or asked to do any work because there’s already a person who maintains it and keeps it clean. We’re just asked to be there with the cats.
How does the shelter sustain itself?
There are many ways but first I must say that this is my perspective as a volunteer, not as someone who manages the shelter.
The founder and veterinary of the shelter, Bernarda Jara, has a factory for accessories for pets. A percentage of their income is directed to the shelter. Also, the shelter is on the same property as the factory so that’s also a good benefit because we don’t need to pay for rent. Most of the improvements have been made with a great contribution from her. Recently we had the chance to improve the shelter by adding a little roof in the backyard so cats have a place to stay if it rains. At the same time due to the general economic situation in Ecuador, the factory has also suffered so it has been kind of a hard year for the shelter as well.
Another way in which we keep the shelter running is from volunteers’ contribution. It’s not a requirement but almost everyone contributes each month with any amount of money that they can.
Another way the shelter gets help is when people adopt a cat. They give a donation for the cats that are sterilized, I think it’s $15 and for kittens, it’s $10 or $5. So it’s a basic contribution that people can offer.
The cat sponsors provide a monthly donation. Some cats are not so “human-friendly” let’s say and they are never going to get adopted. Or they are too used to the shelter and they would suffer a lot if they had to leave. At the same time, it’s hard for people to adopt an adult cat. So there are people who say “well, I cannot adopt but that cat is beautiful. I want to sponsor it.”
There are also general donations, some people donate food or other people donate things for the shelter.
What are the future plans regarding the shelter site?
We already made the site public but haven’t launched a big campaign for people to start using the site as we hope. We want to make a raffle in order to have people use the features of the site especially the cat adoptions and donations. It has been delayed because of the situation in the country.
What I noticed is that people in Ecuador need an incentive to use digital tools. We have people making donations but they are not using the website to make the donations. They also need to have someone there like a live chat to reassure them that the money they are giving is going to a real person.
Once I’m finished with the campaign and everything is running on its own, I would like to organize tours to the shelter. It’s hard for people to visit when they find out it’s one hour away from the city. I still have so much work ahead to get it to how I picture it in my mind.
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