By Freya Dowson (Digital Content and Community Officer)
05 Dec 2012
The Brooke puts education high on the list of its priorities, teaching owners to properly care for their working equines is of the utmost importance. After all, education is the first step along the way to making good welfare a sustainable practice in countries where it can sometimes seem almost non-existent. Occasionally, convincing owners of the importance of the health and happiness of their animal can be a challenge.
This is far from the case when it comes to the children in the Donkey Care Club at Longonot Township Primary School, not far from Nairobi. These children take their animal welfare very seriously, and they make sure they have a lot of fun while they do it.
I had visited Longonot Primary school once before, and the moment I stepped out of the car to over a hundred smiling faces all wanting so say hello at once is something I will never forget. I couldn’t wait to go back – despite the 4am wakeup call and freezing early July morning.
We started out through the still dark morning to our first stop: the Mwangi house, where the star of this little film lives with his mother, father, and five siblings. Fourteen year old Bernard Muriu Mwangi, or just Muriu as he prefers, is responsible for caring for his family’s donkeys.
When I asked him how important his donkeys are, he looked at me like I needed my brain checking – in a way that only 14 year old boys can manage. It was a stupid question really, because the answer is obvious: without his donkeys to carry food, water and produce to sell, Muriu’s family would have no money.
Muriu’s donkeys are happy, healthy, and possibly what is most telling: they are unafraid of people. Muriu is part of a group of children who have grown up respecting their donkeys, not abusing them.
When we finally come to film the Donkey Care Club, it is clear this caring philosophy is something that all the children take seriously: eagerly sharing the idea of good equine welfare with their family and friends as if their lives depended on it – which of course they do.
The club has 38 members, all of which have donkeys at home that help to, or even, provide the entire income for their families. At the club children learn about everything it takes to care so well for their animals: what to feed them, how to groom them, when to call a vet, how to do basic first aid, they even go around inspecting local donkeys to see if they are well taken care of.
Muriu is a typical child attending the Donkey Care Club. He works hard and is serious about his lessons – he wants to be an aeronautical engineer when he grows up. These kids are not blind to the contribution that donkeys make to their lives, after all, the money they make allows for them to attend Longnot Primary School and this club.
They are all smiles and laughter, but they have a quiet determination and intend to make a lasting difference to equine welfare in their local area. Heshimu Punda – which is Swahili for “respect the donkey” is not just a saying, it is part of their education, and to them it is as important as any other lesson.
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