My granny, Elisabeth Svendsen, began our work in Africa in 1986. Since then many hundreds of thousands of working donkeys have been reached by our mobile clinics and community workers. In November, twenty-five years later, I visited three of our key projects in Ethiopia.
There are two elements to our work in developing countries that balance each other entirely. Firstly there is our direct help - soothing a working donkey’s wounds and giving it some comfort from its gruelling work. And secondly, there is getting to the root of the country’s donkey welfare problem, which can only be achieved by working with owners themselves. To demonstrate, I’ve picked out my two most poignant memories from visiting this beautiful country - both made me cry on the spot and both show you how your donations help.
Getting to the roots with Abraham
I met Abraham at a school near Hawassa. Wearing his bright yellow Donkey Sanctuary Junior Donkey Club t-shirt, he stood in front of 1,000 children to deliver a poem about caring for donkeys and then invited me back to his home to meet his own donkey. Inside the animal hut I found a healthy, glossy-coated, happy donkey quietly munching on soft oats alongside the family’s cattle. Before our intervention, this donkey had been considered the least valued member of the household and was left outside, to feed and fend for himself, before being expected to work hard all day, every day. After learning more about donkeys at our Junior Donkey Club, Abraham persuaded his mum and dad to shelter their donkey, feed it and to love it.
Direct help for donkeys like Iou
Iou was a very depressed donkey, he was lame, extremely thin and had harness and beating wounds. At the clinic in Hawassa our head Vet/Country Representative Bojia spent an hour treating him. His vital signs were checked, his feet trimmed, his wounds cleaned and medicines administered for pain relief and parasites.
It took me ages to get near him for a cuddle, but when I did, he seemed to love the attention!