by Emerald Cammegh
From training and treating donkeys and educating people about the care of their animals, Hartpury student Poppy Newton-Clare is on an emotional journey after heading to Egypt for her work placement.
Poppy, who is studying for an Equine Science degree, is volunteering at Animal Care Egypt (ACE), a charitable animal hospital in Luxor, Egypt. The sandwich year on this degree programme gives students the opportunity to complete around 10 months of volunteer work experience and Poppy is also completing placement hours at World Horse Welfare in Somerset.
During her time in Egypt, Poppy’s main role involves working closely with a team of vets to help provide care and treatment for the animals that come to the centre, which might include treating severe emergency cases, wound dressing and preventative care. Poppy has also assisted with educating owners on the care of their animals and supporting school visits for local children.
“The placement is very hands on and practical and I’m gaining a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills, about care of the animals and also myself as a person,” said Poppy.
“One of my favourite things is showing visitors around the hospital and introducing them to the current in-patients. I find it so rewarding seeing their reactions to the fantastic work we do. Sometimes people end up in tears where they are so overwhelmed.
“It’s also great being able to ‘teach’ the horses and donkeys love and affection. Many are not responsive to a scratch at first but after a few nights of carrots and cuddles, they just can’t get enough!
“One of the toughest challenges is assisting in putting donkeys to sleep and making sure they have an enjoyable last meal, especially as you form a bond with each animal at the centre. I feel emotional every time, but my experience at ACE has helped me deal with these emotions.
“The time absolutely flew by, so much that I changed my flights to give me an extra four weeks working at the centre.”
Inspiration to complete the ACE placement came from Poppy’s previous visit overseas to complete a sponsored horse ride across the Wadi Rum desert, Jordan. It was during this trip that Poppy was confronted with the potential welfare issues for working horses and donkeys in desert countries.
She added: “It was after my horse ride, when I caught my first sight of a slim, dehydrated and exhausted Arab mare which stood hopelessly under a rare spot of shade, that realised this was something I was determined to do something about.
“I work closely with many Egyptians. I have visited families in their homes and they have been so generous and welcoming. It touches my heart to see how they live with such minimal resources and they are so dependent on these working animals. It makes you realise the importance of working animals to communities in the developing world.”
During her placement, Poppy is also collecting data for her dissertation project due for completion in her final year, which will focus on investigating the Egyptian horse and donkey owners’ perceptions of welfare.
The ACE charity’s mission is to improve animal’s welfare in Egypt by preventing the need to abuse the animals. The charity is trying to combat misunderstandings and ignorance surrounding the care of animals. The charity teaches 800 children a month to understand that they should treat animals with the respect they deserve.
One of the ways Poppy is helping the charity to make a difference is assisting with teaching animals to learn new skills.
“We train the donkeys and horses to walk forward of their own accord to avoid abusive whipping to better their treatment from owners,” added Poppy.
There’s more information about how you can get involved in volunteering with ACE, go to http://www.ace-egypt.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer-at-ace/
Further information about Poppy’s work and ACE can be found on Poppy’s blog at https://ajourneytoegyptapassionforhorses.wordpress.com/
As well as helping students to secure work placements overseas and throughout the UK, Hartpury also offers on-site opportunities for volunteer placements. Students have the chance to work at the Equine Therapy Centre, the International Equine Arena and in the Sports Academy. Previous international placements and travel opportunities include summer camps in the USA and conservation projects in the Seychelles and in Kenya.