Teachers overcome their fears
In our November report we said we were planning to conduct an awareness training program for the MARDAP teachers. This was because in the last DAT session we noticed that the teachers started to feel anxious near the donkeys. This reluctance had an immediate effect on the children. They took the lead from the teachers and started feeling less comfortable with the animals compared with previously. So in preparation for the Donkey Assisted Therapy program commencing in March, we gave a comprehensive explanation of the purpose and benefits of DAT for our MARDAP children and also managed to reduce some of the fear towards these animals. We noticed that the teachers became ‘switched on’ with a willingness to approach the donkeys in a more confident way for the sake of the children.
Signed, sealed and delivered!
On 4th February the fateful email arrived telling us that The Donkey Sanctuary had signed a Collaborative Agreement with Bridging Lanka and the first tranche of funds was in the Bridging Lanka bank account. And, in the words of the agreement: “The purpose of this Collaboration is to enable The Donkey Sanctuary and Bridging Lanka to develop and take forward high quality work, in line with the strategies of the collaborating organisations, that allows us to reflect and learn together and to provide evidence and case studies that we can share with others in our training, policy work and communications to the benefit of donkeys and mules worldwide.”
We are over the moon because now we have the funds and technical support to implement our signature projects – the donkey clinic and community education centre as well as the donkey assisted therapy centre (DAT)!
Many thanks Stephen Blakeway and Sally Price for guiding us from the UK and making it happen. Most especially we want to thank and acknowledge Dr. Ramesh Kumar from The Donkey Sanctuary UK who has believed in us, advocated and supported us through hard times and been an inspiration to us all.
There are few souvenirs or items of memorabilia for tourists to remind them of their time in Mannar. We have now taken another step toward the positive promotion of donkeys through creating postcards. This month we designed two postcards, one with ‘Saya’ on the front and the other with our new foal, Kelvin. Slowly, slowly the mindset of the people in Mannar is starting to change towards donkeys in response to our expanding donkey programs.
Donkey adoption = healthier animals
Now that a number of kind-hearted animal lovers, mainly in Melbourne and Tasmania, have adopted donkeys, their monthly contribution is ensuring that our donkeys are being well fed. Previously Bridging Lanka could only afford to give them bread, rice and vegetables left over from the garment factory and vendors.
Now the donkeys receive three meals in a day! In the morning they get vegetables from the vendors and in the afternoon food from the garment factory. Now in the evening we give them nutritious food – coconut based ‘oil cakes’, rice bran mixed with maize, grass and, of course, water. Our donkeys are really enjoying their new diet. This is the result of Mannar’s first donkey tour. We would really like to thank all our sponsors and supporters who are making it possible for us to really care for these wonderful creatures. Next month two donkeys will be featured. Now who will they be?
Donkey/human conflict in Sri Lanka by David Harding
David Harding, our passionate animal-loving supporter from the UK, visited us in November 2015 and worked tirelessly with the donkeys for two weeks. Before he left Mannar he promised to write a report with recommendations about how to progress our donkey work. Well, David kept his promise and sent us a comprehensive and very useful report about donkey and human conflict and what to do about it in the Mannar context.
David’s report was based primarily on first-hand observations and covered a multitude of topics – population and breeding rates, the current human/ animal conflict, possible solutions, benefits of feral donkeys, tourism opportunities, and what still needs to be done: determining responsibility, policy co-ordination and promotion, animal welfare, securing breeding stock, need for a donkey clinic, sterilisation program, food and shelter, taming and training, urban litter, traffic regulation, community education and neighbourhood group formation.
Thanks David. Your report will help us as we dive into a more significant phase of our donkey work. Please continue to support us.
Tourism lecturers Visit our donkeys
While senior lecturers from the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management (SLITHM) were conducting a tour guide training program, Kelvin had the chance to speak to them about our donkey programs in Mannar. They were amazed to hear about it and asked to see our donkeys. After the program Kelvin took them to our donkey shelter and it was an ‘Oh my God’ moment for them, both were surprised and happy at what they were seeing. They didn’t lose an opportunity to take countless photos, grooming the donkeys and hand feeding them. They really enjoyed their time. We hope they will support us to develop more donkey-focused tourist ventures in the near future.
Cleaning up after the floods
The Bridging Lanka staff took part in a working bee at our shelter because during the previous two to three months the site went under water and the area was in a real mess. Our staff cleaned the grounds for the good health of the donkeys and also that our MARDAP children would experience a clean and safe environment.
Uniting Church funds ‘hit the ground’
Thanks to the compassion and generosity of the Sammy Stamps team of the Uniting Church in Melbourne we can now renovate our donkey shelter so that MARDAP’s differently abled children will have a safe, all weather facility for their Donkey Assisted Therapy (DAT) program. For over thirty years the Sammy Stamps team of volunteers have gathered thousands of used stamps,, trimmed and sold them to stamp collectors. The thousands of dollars earned have gone to supporting worthy projects in many parts of the globe. Thanks you Rev Pargeter, Allan Clark, Sammy Stampers AND Lencie!
The renovation has started!
So far we have unloaded ten tractor loads of rubble and started to renovate the existing store room at our donkey shelter with funds from Sammy Stamp. A new door has been installed so that we can safely store all donkey equipment and dry food in the shed. Next month we hope to get five loads of sand and three loads of gravel which will go on top of the rubble to make a safe pathway for the children.
The delay is due to the truck owner not yet gaining permission from the Government Agent’s office to undertake sand mining. Also, we are waiting for a bulldozer to level the ground. The machine belongs to the Urban Council and is currently busy working on the Mannar sports stadium.
Not there yet!
We are still struggling to get approval from the Mannar Pradesiya Sabha or PS (Local Council) to build our Donkey Clinic and Community Education Centre. The PS has asked us to obtain approval from the Railway Department because our land is adjacent to the train tracks and the street outside the property comes within the railway conservation area. A letter was sent and now the long wait for their good reply. Every month Kelvin receives calls from the public, bringing to our attention another injured donkey and asking us to do something about their suffering. We are finding it difficult to do any treatment without a dedicated clinic.