As we round up our year of business developments and accomplishments here at Foxley Kingham and GKP in this ProActivity article it’s apparent that our staff have also been having a year of personal growth and firsts too. In this article, we speak to Director, Tara Aldwin about her eye-opening experience volunteering at Prince Fluffy Kareem in Egypt. Over to you Tara:
In early November, with my bag packed full of supplies and my “Out of Office” on with the message I was off somewhere exciting, I set off for Egypt. After almost a year of talking about it, I was finally off to Prince Fluffy Kareem, a charity with an intriguing name.
In 2017 a friend shared a social media post from Prince Fluffy Kareem (PFK). The post was accompanied by a picture of possibly the most emaciated horse I had ever seen. I checked with the charity commission and discovered a legitimate UK-registered charity working in Cairo, Egypt, providing respite and sanctuary for the hard-working equines of the area, and my support was born.
PFK has a strong social media presence and through their many Facebook “lives” and updates I was struck by the number and condition of the animals coming through their doors. I say animals because whilst they’re primarily there for horses and donkeys, no animal in need that comes through their doors is turned away. Over the years I came to know the charity and the UK Trustee, Emma Thompson well, and at last, I would be spending four days volunteering on-site and seeing what they do first-hand.
Arriving at PFK
I was a little apprehensive beforehand. I knew they did great work but I also knew the heartbreaking condition some of the animals came in, and as a lifelong horse lover I wondered how I would cope with the sights that awaited me. Whilst many horses are rehabilitated and live out retirement in comparative luxury, many are not so fortunate and don’t make it. Would I be strong enough?
Emma showed me around and explained how extreme poverty and lack of basic education and facilities, rather than wilful neglect, is the underlying cause of this. These equines are working animals, pulling carts, or a means of transport. It’s a poor area, most of the owners they work with are illiterate and survive on a low income. Horse feed is very expensive, there are no fields of grass in the desert and the weakening exchange rate has driven costs up further. Whilst there are good vets about, they are beyond the price reach of low-income families. It’s a complex puzzle and one I wanted to understand further before passing judgment on the sights that awaited me.
And it’s true, there were some difficult sights. Horses so emaciated they struggled to stand, some suffering terrible wounds from pressure sores, others with nasty wounds from road accidents or stallion bites, and one little donkey who had been burned in a stable fire.
But what I didn’t expect is just how utterly rewarding my experience would be. For every difficult sight, there is a success story, horses with round bellies and donkeys full of mischief, it’s hard to stay sad for long when you’re surrounded by a crowd of curious donkeys, with soft noses and big eyes asking for attention. It was comforting that those in crisis were now getting what they needed.
Daily life at PFK
With up to 400 horses, donkeys and mules to be cared for at any one time, PFK has a dedicated team of 23 local workers, overseen by a highly experienced manager.
My days were spent on site. I was put to work bathing and combing ticks from youngsters, which is important because the ticks can carry diseases. I also spent time hand-feeding the burned donkey as her sore mouth made it difficult to eat, ensuring that weaker animals got their share of food at the troughs, and giving them some love and gentle attention.
All the residents have 24/7 chaff and water in paddocks shaded by big awnings. At least twice a day a lorryload of hay or barseem (a type of clover) would arrive; this was a time the horses very much looked forward to and was followed by excited neighs and brays. A farrier and vets are on site most days for hoof and additional medical care as required.
The ”shower” is a busy and important area. Horses line up to be bathed, with wounds cleaned and dressed. Even a basic necessity such as running water is not available to everyone, the majority of houses are still collecting water from standpipes in the street, so for owners to be able to bring their animals to PFK for washing is a benefit. Whilst there, preventative care can be administered, the horses can be checked over, treated for problems early, and the owners educated. Every visiting equine also leaves with a free, locally made, safe, and comfortable headcollar.
It wasn’t all hard work though, PFK stands right on the edge of the Sahara desert, and horses that have been rehabilitated and well enough to ride need exercise. So at the end of one day, when the work was done, I was lucky enough to be treated to a ride to the local pyramids. What a view!
Meeting equine royalty
My trip would not have been complete without meeting (HRH) Monos, perhaps PFK’s greatest success story and Ambassador. Signed over to PFK in June 2020, Monos was extremely malnourished. Also suffering from tetanus and babesiosis, no one expected her to survive but my word this girl was a fighter. Even in such a terrible condition she was sassy and would strike a pose when the camera was on her! Gently she was brought back to full health, and the pictures speak for themselves.
All the services provided by PFK are free of charge, whether that be fully fostering animals until they are recovered, providing medical and hoof care, or simply a wash, new headcollar, and deworming treatment. The average cost of care is £100 per month per resident horse and the charity relies almost entirely on donations from individuals. There are many levels of support, from a £1 per month supporters club to full or partial sponsorship of an individual horse. The charity is quite simply run on a shoestring, donations go directly to providing care for the animals.
There are simply so many stories I could tell about the souls that come through PFK, but space is limited so the best thing I can recommend is to follow PFK on Facebook where you can hear all about their cases, for better and worse.
Overall I loved my trip, without exception, everyone I met was so welcoming, the place has a calm and positive air about it, and being able to contribute in some way to the good being done is so rewarding. I have also come away really wanting to understand more about the complex issues that have led to such difficult circumstances. One thing I can be sure of though, this was my first visit but will certainly not be my last, I can’t wait to go back.
Prince Fluffy Kareem Registered charity no 1156400