Thursday, 18 July 2013

An inspirational woman

Let me introduce you to Doctor Elisabeth Svendsen MBE. Many of you may have already heard of her and know what she achieved in her life time.


Doctor Elisabeth Svendsen MBE loved donkeys ever since she was a child. In 1969 she bought her first donkey and soon realised they needed company, so this was closely followed by another one. Her life changed when one day while visiting Exeter market she discovered 7 sick donkeys. She tried to buy the sickest one without success. However this convinced her to set up a charity, the aim of which was to relieve the suffering of donkeys and mules and improve the health and welfare of these animals.


The first time I was aware of her work was when I read her one of her book. I was so impressed, how with the support of many others, what she achieved. Today the Donkey Sanctuary that started in Devon has 8 farms in the UK and also rescue centres in Cyprus, Italy and Spain. They run projects in Egypt, Ethopia, India, Kenya, Lamu and Mexico. The organisation has rescued over 14,500 donkeys since it was formed. Donkeys have a long life span and can live up to the age of 30- 50 years in prosperous countries, so it can be a long-time commitment to take over the care of these lovely animals. They currently have 5,000 animals under their care.


The Donkey Sanctuary is based near Sidmouth in Devon and is free to visit, although obviously donations are very welcome.  


All this would be an amazing achievement in itself, but Elisabeth,  having once worked with children realised that donkeys could also help children with special needs and disabilities. She set up another charity "The Slade Centre" to bring children and donkeys together.The donkeys help the children to develop co-ordination, confidence and self esteem. The Slade centre is also based at the donkey sanctuary and this has now expanded to another 6 centres in the UK. I will never forget the first visit we made here.We saw the children enjoying riding and playing games with the donkeys. The joy on their faces was so wonderful to see. Donkeys are also taken to visit residential homes and hospices and bring a smile to many elderly people.


While staying in a hotel in Torquay Elisabeth noticed that it was full of single elderly people not talking to each other. On returning home she set up Donkey Week Holidays in 1982 to allow her subscribers to visit the sanctuary, spend time with the donkeys and also make new friends who had similar interests. These holidays are very popular and still take place annually.



I am in awe of how much she has improved  both of the lives of donkeys and humans- sadly Elisabeth died in 2011 at the age of 81 and this video here is dedicated to her.



The Donkey Sanctuary is a wonderful place to visit so if you are ever in the area I would highly recommend a visit although you may have your heartstrings pulled just like me. 



Do you have any donkey tales or have come across the donkey sanctuary's work?
Sarah x

37 comments:

  1. What a special woman Elizabeth was and a lovely place to visit!

    Have a lovely evening Sarah!

    Madelief x

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  2. ooh Sarah this is the most wonderful place to visit isn't it. We all love going here, even the dog. It has the most calming effect on you and if you go just when the donkeys are going to bed, you can help to put them in, its lovely. Julie xxx

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    1. That sounds wonderful putting them to bed! We will have to visit there later in the day too.
      Sarah x

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  3. Sweet creatures. Definitely inspiring; why we all are not more protective of all defenseless and voiceless creatures, I do not know.

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  4. Hello there Sarah!

    I LOVE DONKEYS. Any kind of equine animal has a special place in my heart and these animals rule. I have a question; what are those blue leggings for that the one donkey is wearing?

    I agree that animals have the power to bring a smile to our faces, and science does suggest that blood pressure levels can be lowered when one is in the presence of a sweet animal as such. Animals such as dogs, rabbits, birds and horses are becoming more popular therapy companions, and I couldn't think of a better way to get the elderly or children with needs out of their shells. Lovely post, fantastic photos! Anita

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    1. I assume the blue legggings were to provide protection . When we passed later there was a cover over the rest of it's body too.
      Sarah x

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  5. Hehe...I'm a member already, Sarah...I have a big dream to visit one day..I send donations to a dear donkey called.....Guess? donkey Dean! She did such great work...I am also a member of the Brook donkey sanctuary! I have a soft spot for these beautiful animals...Hugs maria ( really shouldn't be on here) hehe!

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    1. I hope you get there one day. We will have to look out for Dean. Keeping my figures crossed for Dean this weekend!
      Sarah x

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  6. We both love donkeys! There is something so appealing about them that you cant help but be enchanted by them.Why or how people can hurt such beautiful animals is beyond my comprehension.

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  7. We love the donkey sanctuary and have been visiting it regularly since before we moved here. I have a link to the Donkey Sanctuary blog from my blog page. Ben Hart writes beautiful posts on donkey behaviour. There is a residential home very near me called Leonard Cheshire DisAbility, and I have seen the Donkey Sanctuary van pull up and get a donkey out. Thanks for a great post, Elizabeth Svendson is truly inspirational and was obviously gifted in engaging people.

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  8. Hi Sarah, that's another one for the list of things I must do in the Devon!! (one day.....) I love donkeys too. You can get miniature ones too, sometimes I wish I'd tried to get a pair to keep the goat company, instead of the snooty alpacas! But they are quite hard to find here. I was wondering why they had to wear those collars, but looking at the last photo of you gazing into that donkey's eyes I see they must be so they can tell who is who, and how old they are! Have a lovely weekend, Sally x

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  9. I absolutely adore donkeys.. I follow The Donkey Sanctuary page on facebook. If I lived closer I would be a frequent visitor but I'm too far away so I have to make do with looking at their lovely photos instead. They do such wonderful work.
    Julie :o)

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  10. The Donkey Sanctuary is a MUST each time we are in the area, and sometimes, even when we aren't!! We first came across the DS when we were on our honeymoon - 29 years ago now!! We saw a field full of Donkey's and stopped to look, which of course, led us to the stables! I couldn't believe my eyes!! All those donkey's, it was magical! The pleasure of visiting never wears off, and we have watched the DS go from strength to strength, and have 'adopted' several donkey's over the years. It truly is a fabulous place to visit! We will be there again in September, while we are stopping in your neck of the woods!!!!

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  11. Very inspirational! I love all animals and really appreciate this story. Thanks for posting!!! X

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  12. Thank you for sharing - I did not know about Dr Elisabeth Svendsen. What a compassionate woman, and what wonderful initiatives!

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  13. Hi Sarah, I love donkeys too.. What a wonderful woman Elizabeth was, to give of herself to donkeys and humans which made such a difference in their lives.
    Great post, thank you so much for sharing.
    fondly,
    Penny

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  14. What a wonderful woman, so much to give. There was a Donkey around the corner from our home when I was growing up, it would wake us up each morning.

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  15. We always visit the donkeys when we go to Beer, it's such a lovely tranquil place. I only wish I could bring one home with me ~ Sarah x

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  16. when i was younger, much younger, late teens and 20's i used to sponsor a donkey with the donkey sanctuary! Life, moved on, babies arrived and money was tight so I had to stop. This post really took me back down memory lane

    leanne x

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  17. Lovely post Sarah and what an amazing and caring woman of both humans and animals.
    Patricia x

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  18. what an amazing woman. I'd never heard of her so I enjoyed reading about the things she achieved - it's fantastic.

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    1. The Donkey Santuary have a farm near Buxton that has occasional open days. There is one in August and Sptember.
      Sarah x

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  19. I'd never heard of Elisabeth Svendsen so I'm very pleased you shared her story. Her achievements were wonderful. I'm fond of donkeys and it is terrible that they're often treated so cruelly. Charities like this that save them are so important. (I'm having trouble leaving a comment so hope you don't mind if you've received this more than once!)

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  20. Hi Sarah,
    How sweet of you to come by and leave such kind words about HoneyBee.. I am so happy you enjoyed.
    blessings,
    Penny

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  21. I loved reading this post. What a wonderful awareness and connection Dr. Svensden achieved.Amazing what a dedicated person can do to achieve good.
    We have rescued , fostered and sanctuaried many horses over the years.
    Honey Bee the little miniature horse you just visited in our post (with her chicken friends) was a rescue. Honey Bee is now sanctuaried with us. We have had her here about 7 years.
    Thirty seven miniatures horses were in the group she was in ~ rescued from a breeding stable and the people that had them were wealthy ! The herd of minis were literally bags of bones and near death ,some had passed in the dirt field. So hard to imagine that kind of neglect. Good dedicated rescue organizations , or just one aware person can make such a difference for prevention of cruelty to animals.
    Sorry to go on and on.
    Great post.

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    1. It's hard to believe that Honey Bee was neglected how could anyone treat these poor animals so badly. Do pop over to Willow and Penny above if you lovely horses, she is very popular with her chicken friends!
      Sarah x

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  22. Thank you so much for sharing this story and bringing back a wonderful memory. In 1974, when we lived in Jamaica, our cottage came with its own donkey. She had been rescued from the streets of Kingston. Ruby's hooves were destroyed beyond repair because she had been a working donkey with now protection for her hooves on the streets. Ruby spent her final years "mowing" our lawn. When she wanted attention she would knock against the open windows.

    Elisabeth Svendsen is a true miracle worker.

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    1. I'm so glad that Ruby ended her final years mowing your lawn and being well looked after. I have heard of birds knocking on windows for attention but never a donkey!
      Sarah x

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  23. such an inspiring woman, thanks for writing about her, just shows what one person with determination can do. We are lucky to have 2 donkeys, Ned and Gwendoline who share our life and give us so much, including poo for pumkin growing! since my daughter fundraised for the DS with a 'garden party' when she was about 10 years old we get the newsletters which are also inspiring, and always full of hope. I intend this summer to put our recent big clearout to good use with a car boot sale for the DS...maybe other people would like to do this too?

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    1. That's a great idea Emma I have been meaning to sell some stuff on ebay and you can give a percentage to the DS so I must get myself organised and do this!
      Sarah x

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  24. Hi Sarah,

    Lovely post and I enjoyed learning about this wonderful woman and what she did - thanks for sharing this.
    I remember having a ride once in a little cart with my cousins at a seaside place and it was so much fun.

    Enjoy the weekend and hope you are having lots of sunshine
    Hugs
    Carolyn

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  25. Ah Sarah that was a beautiful story about a very caring lady, what a wonderful woman she was..I must admit I have always loved donkeys,they have such beautiful faces,
    I can remember feeling so sorry for a donkey on Broadstairs beach when I was a child, after I had a ride on him I insisted that his owner gave him a drink, he took no notice of me, so I filled bucket with water and did it myself!!
    Thea xx

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  26. Thanks for another beautiful, interesting post, Sarah. I have not had any personal encounters with donkeys, but I've read several Betty Neels novels in which donkeys were rescued and loved. It is wonderful to learn that in reality Elizabeth was able to rescue and care for abused donkeys and raise awareness of the problem so that others could care as well. xxGracie







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  27. A friend used to take in old beach donkeys, the first they did on being let into the field was have a jolly good roll, it was a joy to see :D

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  28. Oh what a beautiful story and I told Hubby if we had a farm or a bit larger yard, I would love to have a donkey. They are so sweet and a perfect size for a small farm. Thanks for sharing.

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  29. I sponsored one of the donkeys when I was a teenager, I'm 43 now! I've always loved donkeys. :) Love, Tina xx

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  30. Oh I love posts about inspirational women and this lady was a superstar wasn't she. I had no idea it was Elisabeth who set up the donkey sanctuary, how cool was she?? What a gal :o) xx

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