Thursday, December 20, 2012

This post is from the Donkey Sanctuary but it speaks to my heart and I wanted to share it with you

Home for Christmas; a donkey for my wife

Donkey waiting for treatment at a local government clinic in Ethiopia
I am flying back home to my family and The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth. It has been a long 5 weeks visiting our projects in Ethiopia and Egypt but I am returning happy knowing the projects are progressing well. During this time we held a workshop with our overseas vets as well as two of our vets from the UK, in the veterinary faculty near Addis. This workshop was to help direct and guide the standards of health care for donkeys. I also spent time in the projects in the Ethiopian regions of Amhara and Tigray. Here the team have been training local vets and animal health providers to give donkeys the best standard of health service that we have agreed is possible with the right training and support. They need to work with constraints such as certain essential equipment and medicines not being available in Ethiopia. This was followed on the way back to the UK with stopover in Egypt were a veterinary co-ordinator was appointed to oversee the development of health care for donkeys there. Despite all the political chaos in the capital the project in Egypt continues unabated thanks to the unwavering determination of the team there.
The international team enjoying coffee at break time during a recent workshop in Ethiopia setting standards for primary health care for donkeys.
Ethiopia is a fascinating country in many ways. The history of coffee drinking is even believed to have originated in Ethiopia and traditional Italian made lever pump coffee machines are found in every cafĂ©. Thinking of home, Christmas and a smooth transition back I offered to buy my wife a similar type coffee machine. The handle to our Bialetti espresso maker melted and fell off some time ago and you now need oven gloves to take it from the stove. My wife’s response to this offer was in her typical fashion, just get the work done well, get home safely and use the money on something that was really needed.
Shortly before flying from Ethiopia I was with the team in a town called Quiha where they undertake weekly clinics and train vets students from the local university. A donkey in a desperate condition that had been badly mauled by a hyena, a common occurrence in the area, staggered to the clinic. The clinic was busy with lots of sick donkeys but this poor donkey was particularly ill. The damage was extensive with large parts of his hind leg and abdomen torn away. He was clearly in shock and in great pain. The team gave pain relief and then began the process of assessing the donkey and trying to make him comfortable, then explaining to the owner it was not going to be possible to mend this donkey. The owner’s eyes filled with tears. He said he could not have it euthanased; ‘What would people say? Maybe it will be OK?’ He would take it home and let God decide, clinging onto hope, as his family rely on this donkey for their everyday survival.
Our approach is to work with the community to help them understand why sometimes euthanasia is the only humane option, this takes time. However the thought of this donkey stumbling back home only to die in the following days with the injury was too much. I remembered my wife ‘words’ the night before. I talked with our vets about what could we do. There appeared few options open to us, then we considered whether a possible way forward would be for someone to discreetly buy the donkey as a one off gesture, and how would it be seen by the community. For example, would it have an adverse long term effect on the project by increasing the expectations of donkey owners? Our vets felt we could try this, as this was an exceptional case. Thankfully the owner agreed and I bought the donkey for my wife, in place of the coffee machine. The owner left the donkey with us and we humanely put the donkey out of its misery. The owner now had some money to help buy another donkey which he promised to protect from the hyenas at night thus preventing a similar incident.
Thinking more, my old percolator never has stopped making good coffee so why change it anyway and the Ethiopia team have sent me enough coffee to keep me going over the festive season - we had all we needed.
Incidents like this one remind you how lucky you are in life, having the luxury to worry about trivia such as a handle on a coffee machine, when much of the world still live in poverty with little protection against the suffering from disease and injury and the financial crisis this may be bring.


  1. You, my friend, have a big heart.

    Merry Christmas.

  2. You are an amazing woman dear fried....peace be with you. Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  3. This is a great post Oma Linda! Makes you think how truly fortunate you are and to think of those in need! Big Hugs ;o) Happy Ho Ho ;o)

  4. Sounds like a much more useful gift than a coffee maker!


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