Most of our work in India focuses on the brick kilns and construction sites like the one at the Rao kiln in Gurgaon. We have been making regular visits to these sites near our regional bases for several years, providing veterinary care and giving basic education to workers and their children.
In some locations we have stopped the use of harsh nylon ropes for hobbling donkeys (tying legs together to restrict movement and stop them from straying) – for example in Ahmedabad the workers are using soft cloth hobbles instead, after we showed local women how to plait them out of rags. We have also been going into schools near the working sites, teaching the children about donkey welfare, and holding additional education sessions on the sites themselves, for the adult and child workers.
We realise that in order to make more substantial improvements, we need to work with whole communities, so as we start expanding our work into new areas, we are also developing the way we help donkeys and their owners.
For example, we recently began working in Badli, just across the border from the western edge of New Delhi, where there are hundreds of brick kilns. We did some careful groundwork to assess the kilns where we can make the most difference, not only through our own expertise in veterinary and education/community development work but also in conjunction with the animal health services already in place, and a range of other people and organisations directly or indirectly involved in donkey care. These include the brick kiln owners, private and government vets, Government veterinary hospitals, farriers, cart makers, seed suppliers, people involved in local community centres, and local religious leaders.
We also plan to work with a woman who runs classes at one of the Badli kilns for children who have to miss school in order to work or support their parents. We hope that she will be able to include children from other kilns in her classes – the owner of the kiln where she teaches has already agreed to this.