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?