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Julia Smith's blog

The hills are alive with the sound of...

The sound of braying donkeys filled the dusty air at Bateshwar equine fair in northern India, and the owners of almost 3,500 animals were starting to panic. The situation was escalating towards crisis point due to a severe lack of water. The fair organisers had not managed to install a hand pump in the dry and hilly terrain where thousands of people had gathered to buy and sell thousands of donkeys, mules and horses.

Donkey Sanctuary India arranged for water for the equines and their owners at the Bateshwar fair

A day's work before dawn breaks

I was full of energy at 3 o'clock this morning, pleased to be awake, dressed and eager to observe a day’s operations and donkey work in a brick kiln in El Saf, Egypt. The slow rhythmic sound of the first call to prayer of the day filled my ears as we left the house and continued loudly inside the car from the radio. It was dark but electric light revealed occasional trails of men walking to their local mosques and groups of women setting-up market goods to sell at the side of the road.

Donkeys hauling bricks into the firing oven.

Teamwork and tough work in brick kilns

I recently visited our partners working in brick kilns in 3 countries, Nepal, India and Egypt where donkeys were working to haul ‘raw’ bricks from loading stations to the ovens where they get fired dry. At the loading stations bricks are stacked to get air dried and once ready, human hands load them onto the donkeys’ backs. Human hands again were used at all the ovens I visited, here to unload them from the donkey to be restacked for baking. The hands and the way they handled the donkeys varied a lot between kilns.

Three sisters in a brick kiln. In the background a mother working with her donkey.
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