I travelled to Ethiopia as part of the Dr Svendsen Scholarship in November 2015 with Heather Ross and saw first hand the amazing work that is being carried out by staff and communities in this developing country. The continued dedication of the charity in numerous areas of the country, aiming to eventually reach all of Ethiopia's 7 million donkeys, inspired me to write this poem.
A future for seven million
For centuries the humble beasts, the Ethiopian workers,
The donkeys seen, stupid, unclean, and known as simply ‘Errkus’.
Represented by no man, charity, vote or ballot,
Each working day, oppressed, ignored – all stick without the carrot.
Required to carry sacks of grain with no back protection first,
To transport water, load by load, but no time to quench their thirst.
They had no choice, and had no voice, still less someone to hear it,
Until one day, the winds of change, whispers of hope at Debre Zeit.
A Sanctuary opened just for those, whose hope long since depleted,
A place where donkey’s feet were trimmed and wounds and illness treated.
Where mules were cared for, donkeys loved, and owners educated,
And staff who knew these beasts misunderstood, not simply hated.
Dr Svendsen’s teachings were listened to, tried and tested,
That donkeys give more back to those whose care is well invested.
And attitudes, they slowly change, when men take a little pity,
That donkeys, cared for, give more back to family, village, city.
And year on year these changes spread; Donkey Sanctuary intervention
Focuses its vital work not just on care, but on prevention.
Fitting saddles, teaching schools, caring owners who employ it,
So donkeys work, for work they must, but not endure it but enjoy it.
And influence spreads, Tigray, Merkato, Hewassa and Mekele,
Showing not only practices, but cultures change as well.
What’s more, with dedicated staff, compassion and with patience,
The Sanctuary, people and animals can change the way of nations.
One donkey more with fitted pack, one less with hobbled rope,
And one by one the donkeys walk towards a future hope.
And day by day will change the way of deed and of opinion
So a future life of love and care can be felt by seven million.
Andrew Perry, Groom
The Donkey Sanctuary, Birmingham