Guest Column

Eat, bray, love

2014-05-16 13:42

Susan Erasmus

Let’s face it: in a country as fractured as ours, animals, especially donkeys, are far down the list of priorities of donors. I know, because I worked in the world of educational fundraising for many years.

It’s difficult enough to walk into any corporate environment to ask for funding for extra maths classes for township kids, or money for Aids orphanages. Especially if you’re dealing with people who listen to these requests all day. Let’s face it, asking for money for anything is difficult. Remember what it was like trying to ask your parents for a loan? Multiply that by 50 and you have the life of a fundraiser. Any fundraiser.

The hell of fundraising

In my book, fundraising must be a job a fraction worse than only tele-canvassing/cold calling. And selling houses.

Now here’s a challenge: you try and be the person who walks in asking for money for a herd of 20 mostly elderly and formerly abused donkeys, and expect to be taken seriously.
I have been privileged to watch people do just this – and make it work. I stand in awe, because I could not do it.

Back to the 350 smartly dressed people. This was a fundraising dinner at Kelvin Grove – an event that started off in the planning stages as a tea party for donkey adopters who live in Cape Town (Read more about the Donkey Sanctuary). I initially thought of suggesting a pub quiz or some such event in the early planning stages, but before we knew it, it had morphed into this Gala Fundraising event with dinner, wine, David Kramer (the patron of the Sanctuary), and lots of stuff about donkeys.

Celebrating a new home

It was an evening of celebration: celebration of the new home that has been found for the donkeys in McGregor; celebration of the unassuming and modest people who run the Sanctuary; celebration of the humility and kindness these donkeys give to humans; and celebration of the people who give generously to charitable causes when they could be spending the money on themselves.

And above all, a celebration of the fact that these donkeys, by means of the extensive outreach and educational programmes, have it in them to promote a culture of caring to people and kids alike. Despite what was done to them. Therein lies the real challenge for us as South Africans and as humans: not to pass on what was done to us, but to follow the example of these wonderful, patient creatures. You can make that happen in your life and in the lives of those around you.

These 20 donkeys show us that things can be turned around and that life can become good again, whatever has happened to you. This evening was, in the end, about so much more than donkeys.

And I suppose that’s in the end the only thing that really matters. To love and be loved, and to extend that love and respect to others, whether human or animal. Or in short, as one of the organisers said: Eat, bray, love.

* Visit the Sanctuary’s Facebook page

-  Susan Erasmus is a freelance writer.

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