Message from our Chief Executive
In 2015 we once again recorded significant growth in the activities of The Donkey Sanctuary, enabled as ever by the continued generosity of our supporters. Thank you all so much. The second full year since the introduction of our revised strategic plan resulted in an increase in the number of countries in which we operate or support welfare programmes, and as a result we were once again able to increase the number of donkeys and mules who benefitted from our work. There has been so much great work to celebrate that not all of it can be described here, so if you would like further details of our strategic plan please visit our website.
Amongst our activities in 2015 we worked directly or indirectly in 35 countries, providing care and welfare, community education and human-donkey interaction programmes. We extended our reach to 1.6 million donkeys and mules, most within our five largest country projects in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Mexico, and many more through supported projects all over the developing world. In Europe we rehomed 367 animals, the highest number for some years, as the economy in Europe continues to strengthen and our restructured welfare operation settles down. As at 31 December 2015 we were looking after 4,960 donkeys and mules and a further 1,700, mainly donkeys, were living with Donkey Guardians in private homes, schools and other institutions. Our human-donkey interaction work, where both donkeys and humans gain benefit from the mutual contact, recorded growth in the number of projects in both the United Kingdom and other parts of the world such as Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Belgium. In 2016 we plan to further expand the programme we operate for children and adults with additional needs, so that they learn more about the importance of donkeys and how to care for them.
Against this backdrop of expanding activities both at home and overseas, we also designed and obtained planning approval for a vital programme of restructuring at our main Sanctuary in Sidmouth. Our current veterinary hospital has served us well for 35 years but the building no longer meets the needs of our population of resident donkeys and mules. We are therefore building what we believe will be the world’s best purpose-built donkey hospital at our outlying Brookfield Farm, where we will be able to treat more sick animals more efficiently, including the large donkey breeds and bigger horses and mules which the original hospital could not cope with. In 2016 the new hospital and new arrivals unit, which is also currently located at the main Sanctuary, will move to Brookfield Farm so that we reduce any risk of temporarily having to close or restrict access around the Sanctuary should an animal bring in an infection. Meanwhile, at the main Sanctuary we will convert the old hospital building into an interpretation area where we will be able to better inform our visitors about the breadth of our work around the world. There will also be a gift shop and larger restaurant to help cater for the 320,000 visitors we receive every year, and at the same time raise urgent funds for our animal welfare work. It is with this project in mind, together with our other capital expenditure for both 2015 and that committed into 2016, that we have designated the net income for the year as reported in the statement of financial activities.
Finally, after nine years as the Chief Executive of The Donkey Sanctuary, a period during which we have been able to achieve significant growth due to the fabulous generosity of our supporters and sponsors, I am stepping down before my 70th birthday. In May 2016 I hand over the reins to Mike Baker, who has many years of international animal welfare experience in senior positions in the not-for-profit world. I am sure under his guidance the charity will continue to follow the ethos of our founder, Dr Svendsen, whereby donkeys come first, second and third, and pursue our desire to reach every donkey and mule in need throughout the world.