You never have to look too hard to find an overworked, exhausted donkey on the streets of Egypt. There are more than three million working donkeys in various marginalized communities across the country, explains Doctor Howeida Al Hadary, Regional Director and member of the board of directors at the Society for the Protection and Welfare of Donkeys and Mules (SPWDME). This non-profit organization, founded in 2002 by Doctor Abdel Ghaffar Kishk who is now its head of the board of directors, is fully funded by The Donkey Sanctuary: an international charity founded in the UK in 1969.
SPWDME provides veterinary care and community training, currently reaching out to 25,500 donkeys. Though it aims for nationwide coverage, it can only focus its work on fourteen locations across villages in the governorates of Giza and Qalyubiya due to its restricted funds and small team. The organization covers most of the El Saff area in Giza, where 150 brick kiln factories employ donkeys carrying carts weighing several hundred kilos of bricks.
With three mobile clinics, SPWDME provides free veterinary services, with a weekly running schedule of visits to all locations. Donkey owners receive check-ups and treatments for their animals; and are provided with free harnesses and padding to help prevent future injuries. In an effort to educate the entire village about the animals' welfare, the organization offers on-site workshops to the donkey owners, children through primary schools, women in family planning centers and veterinary service providers. Other than providing information on how to treat and care for the animals, SPWDME also highlights the significant economic value of the animals to their owners' lives.
The charity supports the villagers in setting up businesses of harness makers to alleviate unemployment. Onsite training is given to harness makers to monitor, evaluate their progress and assist in finding the best fitted local materials. Animal grooming is another profession SPWDME encourages; in the villages where it doesn't exist, the organization trains someone to do it for affordable prices and pass on the knowledge to others.
Outside the villages, SPWDME highly trained professionals pass on their expertise by training veterinary doctors in private clinics and students within several universities including Cairo University, Beni Sueif and Swiss Canal University. These accredit the students' SPWDME training as the practical portion of their education.