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Breakthrough in a long held dream

A few years ago Alex Mayers and I hosted a harness workshop in Tanzania for several of our African friends. Quite a few charities came for the training, from Tanzania, South Africa and Zambia. These groups represented several NGOs that The Donkey Sanctuary has helped with funding and training over the years.

Running the workshop for the first time were Sanctuary Kenya harness guys, Amos and Nicholas. It was a real multi-purpose event as they were being assessed as trainers whilst we all worked to get the information across to the participants.

A well -balanced little ‘scotch cart’

Pots, luck and a donkey in India

The story is familiar, repeated since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in rural Shropshire, where I’m from, and still unfolding here in Rajasthan in the little village of Banmor. The village itself looks old, squeezed in between the busy dual carriageway between nearby cities of Gwalior and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, and the equally busy rail track. We sit under a tree with local donkey and mule owners. Small tin cups of the rich spicy chai (tea) are passed around and folk start to talk.

Villagers meet the Donkey Sanctuary India team

Can I interest you in a miracle?

Did you read Jenna’s blogs from Italy recently? Brilliant stuff! We got involved in this ourselves in November 2011 when Ben Hart came over to Ethiopia to do a week’s training with the staff there. Also present were Amos and Nicholas from Kenya and Farid from Egypt and I can tell you that the results of that training made such a difference to our work that Ben was asked to visit Mexico and Kenya last year to repeat the training for those teams.

Training with staff

Clutching at straws...

I’m fascinated by old crafts, always have been and that’s probably one of the main reasons I became a harness maker in the first place. Since I started working overseas about twelve years ago I’ve delved into local crafts at every opportunity. There is actually a good reason for this - it is much easier to get a group to accept a new idea, such as good harness, if it looks familiar, if it is something that they can understand a little even at first glance.

Chris making a straw harness

Meet Lizzie, my travelling companion... read on!

Although I am a harness maker, I must confess that I am cheating! I can make a harness out of most things but knitting isn’t something I ever mastered. Thanks to Marian Gumbrell in our voluntary fundraising team for making up this beautiful set in her spare time.

Now, you might think that we at the Sanctuary must be short of something to do if you look at the photo here. But this little donkey is going to be my travelling companion all over the world for the foreseeable future.

A day in the life of the Kenyan harness team

People often ask me what I actually do, which is a bit of a hard question as the job is very varied, but one of my favourite places is in the field, with the team. Nowhere is this more true than in Kenya, where we can go on Safari for up to two weeks. Nice word ‘Safari’, conjures up thoughts of lodges, stunning views and magnificent wildlife, but the truth is a little more down to earth. Safari is just Swahili for ‘travelling’.

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