The Gambia Horse and
Summer Newsletter 2007
A Charity that's different
It has been another very busy 6 months for The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust but with your help, we are definitely moving in the right direction and we are so lucky to have the encouragement of The Gambian Government, which appreciates the importance of the working equines in the country.
My sister Stella and I were privileged to grow up in The Gambia and the country and its people have had a huge influence on our lives and have been an important part of who we are now. It is 50 years since we first arrived in the country as very small children and though there were no horses and donkeys to be found in The Gambia at that time, by the 70's they had started to trickle in from Senegal. Little did we realise then the numbers there would be by 2007.
It is always difficult to draw the line between being a sanctuary and running an education project. We do have a number of permanent residents in the yard in addition to Lazarus, the stallion who was really the founder of the charity, but they serve as our ambassadors, they teach our staff, they work for the community and demonstrate how well a healthy animal can perform. They are fine examples of hope to the farmers who bring in their critically sick animals: they are wonderful demonstration animals for the large number of students who visit our centre and they contribute to their keep by taking visitors to the local view points.
With the exception of our Gambian staff who of course are paid, ALL other work for the charity is carried out by volunteers. In addition to all the above mentioned roles that our permanent equine residents bring is the feeling which I know many of our volunteers share, which is of knowing that amid all the suffering that we see and have to accept that we can only alleviate in the long term through education, at least there are a handful that we can rescue and care for and know that they need never suffer again.
They represent what we feel and are striving to achieve for all the other animals we work with.
I would like to thank you all for your continued support, but a special thanks to those of you who sponsor our residents, they are a very special group of animals, and though they have been through great suffering, they are a huge source of delight and satisfaction to those of us lucky enough to work with them.
Horse and Donkey Show
In December we held the first ever horse and donkey show in The Gambia. It was a huge success! One of our Trustees, Liz McIlwraith, who owns The Bridge House Equestrian Centre, kindly responded to our search for a judge and managed to coincide her annual holiday with a trip to visit us. There were classes for both horses and donkeys, males and females and young stock and at this first show, they were judged simply on condition and handling.
There was a HUGE turnout and Liz had a massive task to perform, at which she excelled. We had wanted the judging to be completely unbiased, so Liz had no knowledge whatsoever of the competitors, but interestingly, almost all the prize winners were either members of the donkey project or children who were members of the Donkey Club. We saw some truly magnificent animals and it very clearly demonstrated to me that what we are teaching is being taken on board and is having an effect on the animals.
We are holding another show this year on the 11th December and a number of volunteers from UK will be coming out to assist us. We are very honoured that the show will be sponsored by Animal Friends Insurance, which is an equine and pet insurance company which donates all of its net profits to animal welfare charities around the world. They can be contacted on 0870 40 30 300. We shall be having a driven horse parade at this year's show and this will give us an opportunity to not only help and advise the competitors but to also explain to the audience how to improve the harness and why this is desirable. We shall also be selling harness and swingletrees on the showground made by our trained harness makers. There will be trained Gambian farriers on hand to provide advice and help if needed.
|It is just a year ago that we were telling
with pride of the honours of OBE and honorary doctorate bestowed upon Stella Marsden, one
of our co founders.
Stella has worked incredibly hard for the last 5 years, not only for us, but also with her own Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Trust, overseeing the building and foundation of The Alexander Edwards Village Clinic and setting up the School Sponsorship Scheme which has transformed the local school from a crumbling almost derelict assortment of classrooms to a thriving centre of the community. The school now has new buildings, solar power and has access to the internet, something we never dreamed possible 5 years ago.
|Stella became unwell in December last year
and was subsequently diagnosed with cancer. She has had to leave her home at Badi Mayo
Camp to have chemotherapy here in the UK. Stella has faced many challenges in her life and
regards this as one more and is doing everything she possibly can to overcome it.
Everyone from 'Horse and Donkey' and many of our supporters who know Stella send her best wishes for a very speedy recovery and if the messages of love, positive energy and thoughts that we have received from all over the world have any bearing on the outcome of her illness, she will be back with her beloved chimps again very soon.
|The Donkey Project - a new start for Gambian
We were completely taken by surprise at the popularity of the Donkey Project and as a result of your kindness and generosity, 97 Gambian families are benefiting from the help of a donkey. We were quite overwhelmed with the numbers and it has taken a great deal of hard work on the part of Janet, Gibril, M'bye and Amadou to train the recipients, purchase the donkeys, manufacture the harness that they take home with them and procure the liquid nitrogen to freeze brand them all. In addition to this, the donkeys have to be photographed, blood tested and their new homes checked before the animals are allowed to go out.
I am pleased to say that we have almost caught up now and we have enlisted help from some of the VSO's and Peace Corps volunteers (the American equivalent of VSO) working in The Gambia to help us identify worthy recipients and to monitor the donkeys once they are in their new homes.
The donkeys are working with schools, families and one has gone to someone with quite serious disabilities who says his donkey is his very best friend. Two have gone to widows who have been really struggling since the deaths of their husbands.
I must apologise to those who have had to wait for longer then we would have liked to receive news of their donkey. It has been a sharp learning curve for us and these are real donkeys, it is not simply a fundraising exercise, so it was immensely important that we did it correctly.
This project seems to encompass so many aspects of what we are trying to achieve, in addition to the obvious help that it gives to the recipients and the donkeys, it provides employment to our newly trained harness makers and provides a way of introducing our newly designed and better balanced carts and swingletrees. Hopefully it will be noted how much better these animals work and gradually the whole package of care and improved cart and harness design will be adopted nation wide.
I would like to thank the donors of donkeys for their generosity, patience and understanding. The donkeys are highly prized and very much appreciated as was demonstrated by the show results last year. They provide a real life line to the families that receive them.
We hope to restart the Donkey Project closer to Christmas. A donkey makes a real difference: a donkey, a cart and a plough makes a total difference. A donkey could be a gift: the total package could be 'your project' but we want you to have fun whilst you do it! Let us know how you raise the money.
The Next Major Project - Para Vet's Course
One of the many problems that the horse and donkey owners of The Gambia face is a great shortage of vets. The Government tends to rely on Animal Health Technicians or 'para vets' to help the farmers. They normally undergo 2 years of training at The Gambia College but until now the main focus of their training has been for cattle and sheep and there is minimal training on equines.
We felt that it would be helpful to have some equine specialist Para vets to assist the farmers and to teach equine care and management across the entire country.
The Gambia College wholeheartedly agreed that this would be a good way forward and a 2 year course has been designed. The course will train Para vets and the parts of the curriculum relating to equines will be provided by British equine veterinarians from some of the British veterinary schools, The World Association for Transport Animal Welfare and Studies (TAWS) and Worldwide Veterinary Services. The Donkey Sanctuary has also expressed an interest in helping. The RCVS Trust has very kindly sponsored some scholarships, as have Ernest and Betty Brown and The Anvil Equine Veterinary Clinic.
We are extremely grateful to all these organisations and individuals and particularly Professor Ramsay Hovell of TAWS, Luke Gamble of Worldwide Veterinary Services, and Rob Christley of Liverpool Vet School for their help in developing the curriculum. The results of this training could have a profound impact on the welfare of the animals in The Gambia and consequently the well being of their owners. It is amazing what can be achieved when organisations work together.
If you would like to contribute to this scheme, the cost of training a student is £783 per year. A scholarship could be given in your name, or that of a loved one or if you wanted to hold a fundraising event, this could provide a useful target to try and achieve. This will be the only course of its type in the whole West African region, so has the potential to help animals and alleviate poverty far beyond The Gambia.
What can you do to help?
The Hickstead Ball 2007
This year Hickstead Ltd. have very kindly offered to hold a fundraising Ball for us. It will be on the 15th September and is promising to be a spectacular event with an African theme which includes Gambian drummers and dancers.
There are already some very special raffle and auction prizes, which include a 2 week holiday in The Gambia. If you feel that you would like to contribute to either the raffle or the auction, please either contact Heather Armstrong on 01306 627568 or Alex Coombes on 01273 834315
We look forward to meeting you there at what promises to be a great night out.
" Do you need to buy a gift for a friend or family but cannot think what to get them?"
We can help you to find a really unique gift and help relieve poverty at the same time. We can provide you with a gift certificate for any of the following or we can forward it directly to where it is required:
|A bit for a horse or donkey||£5|
|A worming dose||£5|
|A swingle tree||£10|
|A set of harness made in Gambia||£12|
|Sponsorship of a prize at the annual show||£20|
|Sponsor a donkey or a horse (see website)||£20|
|A cart or plough||£160|
|A 2 year scholarship for an equine animal health technician||£1600|
A swingle tree fastens onto the front of the cart. The breast harness and traces then fasten onto the swingle. This enables to horse to pull the vehicle without it rubbing and making severe wounds.
The Gambian bits and ropes tied around the bottom jaw are still an everyday sight. These cause pain and wounds and then the animal is reluctant to eat. A bit makes a huge difference to everyday life and long term welfare.