Monday, December 07, 2015

Dar Zerhoune Donkey Project ~ Education Day

Last Sunday the formidable Rose Button - the woman behind the Dar Zerhoune Donkey Project - experienced "a surge of delight, pride and awe and knowing that I had been part of a day that changed lives. I now know there is never a greater feeling than the gift of learning to people who are keen, and do not normally have the opportunity." Rose reports from Moulay Idriss

A month ago a donkey owner brought a donkey to my door and needed help. The donkey had a deep cut on its neck and they had used traditional methods to stop the bleeding. We called the American Fondouk for the next steps of wound care and each day I would treat the donkey on the street to clean the wound and allow it to heal successfully. It was during these sessions that I realised the benefit of teaching the donkey owners wound care and taking care of their donkeys and so the Dar Zerhoune Donkey Project Educational Day was planned.

Thanks to generous donations we were able to bring 15 of our donkey owners, including children, from the town of Moulay Idriss, to Fes, to spend the day learning, observing and experiencing the work at the American Fondouk, a working hospital providing free veterinary care for the hard working donkeys, mules, and horses of Morocco. The American Fondouk believe that treating working animals offers a significant contribution towards safeguarding the livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable members of the community, both in the towns and in the countryside. And offering education in horse care and nutrition is also critical to improving the welfare not only of these animals but also the welfare of the owners and their families who depend on them.

The Dar Zerhoune Donkey Project started in July this year with the original intention of providing veterinary care once a month to take care of the donkey’s of Moulay Idriss, a country town 25km from Meknes and 5km from the roman ruins of Volubilis, that relies on donkeys for all activities each day. The project has captured the attention of guests, friends and family of Dar Zerhoune and from whose donations we are able to host our educational day. The donkey owners have taken ownership of the project, and donkey care, even bringing donkeys to the door of Dar Zerhoune for after care. This is what triggered the idea of an educational day – to give the owners a chance to learn about the best donkey care and share this with each other. Often they use traditional methods of using faraan (bakery )ash on cuts and oil on wounds when this can easily be replaced with cost effective use of salty water and honey.

At the American Fondouk the owners had demonstrations of feeding, wound care, foot-care and general donkey maintenance. Along with demonstration the use of the diagnostic machines, like the Xray.

The best words to describe the day are from the attendees themselves.

Youseff aged 8 ‘I learnt how to clean the wound and know now to clean with salt water and if it is a big wound you can put honey on it’.

Donkey man Safi Ali ‘I enjoyed meeting everyone at the fondouk, thank you for organising it. He learned about how to mix the food for the animals and how to tie the animals from the head and not the legs.’

Another donkey man:  ‘I want to say thank you (to the fondouk) for the reception and the way you are taking care of the animals and the first time I have seen how they treat wounds, and all the machines used for diagnostics’.

Aziz – ‘I now knows what to do if something happens to my donkey. I also learned to always put water with the food instead of just once a day’.

Reda aged 12 – ‘I learnt that I shouldn’t tie a donkey from its leg and should treat them with love and not hit them.'

Dr Hicham El Koutbi ‘I was surprised that Rose insisted on bringing the donkey owners to the American Fondouk and surprised that the owners were so very interested.’

Dr Gigi Kay, the director of the American Fondouk said ‘ it was lovely to see so many owners learning how to improve and being so keen to learn so much more about how to care for their animals’. And her goal is to provide an excellent standard of clinical care to the donkeys, mules, and horses of vulnerable owners. At the same time she aims to provide a facility for young veterinarians and students to engage in a busy equine hospital so that they in turn can go on to provide excellence in clinical care for many years to come.’

Plan-it Fez generously sponsored the transportation for the day and commented ‘Delighted to have sponsored an educational Donkey Day bringing the donkey owners from Moulay Idriss to meet the vets at the American Fondouk donkey, mule and horse hospital in Fez. Enabling learning is a privilege and a joy’

Thank you to all our guests, friends and family of Dar Zerhoune who kindly donated to support our project. Please see for more information and contact Rose on if you would like to donate to the project and support the donkeys of Moulay Idriss.

Text & photos: Rose Button

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