Hello, we are Jenna and Emma, and we were privileged to be chosen for the 2014 "Dr S" staff scholarship where we travelled to Mexico. The scholarship scheme was set up in memory of our Founder, Dr Elisabeth Svendsen MBE, and gives staff the opportunity to see our international work in practice, to witness the difficult conditions that donkeys and mules face overseas, and to share our experiences with the rest of The Donkey Sanctuary.
After an eleven hour flight we arrived in Mexico City at 11pm (local time) in the middle of a big thunder storm, with the rain pelting down around us. Even at 11pm we were surrounded by the hustle and bustle you would usually find in the middle of Trafalgar Square in mid-tourist season!
We were collected from the airport by Arturo, who is one of the Senior Managers at The Donkey Sanctuary-UNAM programme. After a warm and friendly Mexican welcome, we headed out of the main car park and into a massive traffic jam that lasted over an hour. The amount of people, police cars with flashing lights, car horns beeping and the street vendors coupled with the thunderstorm and tiredness was overwhelming to the senses. We finally arrived at our accommodation and met Mariano, who is the Country Manager, and received our itinerary for the two weeks that lay ahead of us.
After a good night’s sleep, we awoke to a beautiful sunny day in the midst of the chaotic and intriguing city which has something different happening on every street. Mariano collected us and took us to the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) where The Donkey Sanctuary–UNAM programme’s main office is based. The university’s campus alone felt bigger than our home city of Exeter and on further research, we found that the university does indeed have a bigger population! UNAM is a public university where students get their education for free; in return, the students carry out social service to repay the community and to further their skills in their chosen trade.
There we met Dr Aline Schunemann De Aluja, who founded The Donkey Sanctuary Mexico in 1984 alongside Dr Svensden. Their shared devotion to donkeys helped in founding a vital project in Mexico. It began with just a mobile clinic for working donkeys, but has now expanded to three regional projects, community and education teams, eight veterinary staff, three farriers, four education officers and a training centre.
We rounded off our day with a tour of UNAM where we met an adorable orphaned miniature foal before being treated to a traditional dinner with Mariano’s family.