When asked who in his big family works the hardest, twelve-year-old Abraham says, “the donkey”. It’s true – his mum Birtukan, his dad Tilahun, he and his brothers and sisters, and their grandparents, all rely on one donkey to make a living. They use the donkey to pull a cart, delivering essential goods such as firewood and water around their neighbourhood.
Before our project began in the area, there’d been no-one to advise the family on how to keep their donkey healthy. Like all their neighbours, they let it scavenge around the neighbourhood to find whatever food it could at the end of the working day, and left it outside their home at night.
But during 2010, The Donkey Sanctuary began visiting Abraham’s primary school in Awada to engage the children in a new subject – donkey care. Every Tuesday, the class took part in lively discussions: what work did the family donkey do? What happened when it was ill or injured? What would their donkey say to them if it could speak? Do donkeys communicate with humans in other ways – if so, what are they conveying? Poems and dramas helped the children explore these ideas.
Abraham would come home from these sessions bursting with information for his family about how they could look after the donkey better. He urged his parents to feed it well, and warned them about the danger of hyena attacks on donkeys left outside at night. Through the school sessions, which developed into a ‘donkey kindness club’, he had realised how much his family owed their donkey, and how little it demanded in return.
The donkey is now given rest and water during the working day, fed properly in the evening, and given shelter in a hut along with two cows at night. In short, it is even more a member of Abraham’s family.
Thanks to The Donkey Sanctuary, thousands of children across the four regions of Ethiopia where we work receive donkey welfare education and take part in donkey kindness clubs throughout the school year. The children pass on what they learn to their families and neighbours, spreading the word throughout their communities.