The Donkey Sanctuary has been supporting Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary in McGregor, South Africa since 2009 with their educational programme and, most recently, to conduct accredited donkey welfare professional development workshops. When Suzie Van De Geyn, one of our dedicated UK volunteers, mentioned that she was visiting the region, we put her in touch for a visit. Read about her experiences below.
I have been volunteering for about 18 months here in Sidmouth. I LOVE ‘my’ donkeys and knew that I would miss them when away in South Africa visiting my son. However, we discovered that there was a small donkey sanctuary a couple of hours away from where he lives and so a visit to McGregor was arranged forthwith!
The sanctuary is called Eseltjiesrus, which translates roughly as 'Little Donkeys’ Rest', and it is a beautiful setting for their donkeys to recover from some terrible starts in life. I met Annemarie and Johan van Zijl, the delightful couple who started it up so many years ago with two donkeys in their backyard, and we got on like old friends - it’s due to a shared love of the donkeys, I am sure.
They are trying to do exactly what our large Sanctuary does - provide loving care to rescued donkeys, extend their impact to donkeys elsewhere, and offer advice and support wherever it is asked for.
I was brought up to believe that donkeys are gentle, wise animals, but in South Africa, the donkey is really looked down upon. Annemarie and Johan and their wonderful staff are doing all they can to change this, thus encouraging others to help in their fight against the cruelty and ignorance that unfortunately still exists there.
My son Benjamin and his partner Elly totally fell in love with the donkeys too. In fact, Benjamin was ‘chosen’ by Thabo to be his adoptive parent… they had some kind of instant bond that was not to be denied. Elly is a photographer and took some wonderful photos.
I have made new friends over in McGregor - ones with big, furry ears, and some donkeys too! And I can’t wait to visit them all again.