The following is a partial transcript of the show.
The other day I came across a photograph of a young girl that stirred my imagination. It also filled me with a bit of hope. The photograph was taken in India. I found it on the website of BrookeUSA and I will tell you about it a little later in the show.
First though, let me tell you about Brooke USA. This is a not-for-profit organization which tells us that, looking at things from a global perspective, there are, right now, approximately 100 million horses, donkeys and mules that work as a means of survival for 600 million of the poorest people on earth.
It is a staggering and disturbing statistic. One hundred million equines helping 600 million of the poorest people to survive. Brooke USA is, then, an organization that is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of those 100 million horses, donkeys and mules. And at the same time, by doing so, improve the lives of the 600 million poor who depend on them.
My guest on today’s show is Emily Dulin, the CEO of Brooke USA.
We get a sense of the interconnectedness between the welfare of the animals and that of the impoverished families who depend on them, when we consider that Brooke USA endeavours to develop programs which recognize “working equines as essential to reducing poverty.”
The original founder of the international Brooke organization, Dorothy Brooke, early on recognized this interconnectedness when she, according to one of her biographers, “realised that upon their animals [the poor’s] lives depended... [that] the death or injury of their beast of burden was the equivalent of a crash in Wall Street...” The animal represented to a poor family a “bit of capital.”
The mission of Brooke USA is, then, to significantly improve “the health, welfare and productivity of working horses, donkeys and mules and the people who depend on them for survival worldwide.”
They seek to do so by promoting “sustainable economic development by reducing poverty, increasing food security, providing access to water and raising basic standards of living through improved equine health and welfare.”
Equine health and welfare would seem, therefore, to be both an end in itself, but also a means to achieve the betterment of the lives of the poor. The two go hand in hand.
India is the immediate focus for Brooke USA right now. This is because of the heartbreaking exacerbation of the problems and suffering of the poor there because of Covid-19. Difficult enough to try to deal with things as they were. Unimaginably more difficult to deal with them in the throes of a pandemic.
To talk more about the situation in India and about the initiatives of Brooke USA, I’d like to welcome Emily Dulin.
The picture I was referring to at the outset of today’s show is that of a young Indian girl who would likely be about 12 years old. She is accompanied in the photo by what would be assuredly her family’s donkey. She is feeding the donkey a small pile of fresh greens. The girl is dressed in a colourful flowered top and a traditional head covering. The donkey looks from the photograph as though it is in very good health. The coat looks healthy. The donkey does not look underweight. It is eating there oblivious to what else is going on around him or her.
The picture of the young Indian girl can be seen as direct evidence that the approach of Brooke USA to both equine welfare, and progress in the circumstances of the poor, is certainly appropriate and effective. Yet even beyond the health that is clearly evident in her youthful face and the health of her donkey, the single thing in the photograph that strikes me so profoundly, is her smile.
Her smile is broad and genuine and easily given. It is part of her nature, no doubt. But it is also a product of the intervention to improve her family’s and likely, village’s, material circumstances. It is in part, at least, a result of the work of organizations such as BrookeUSA.
Although they are somewhat hard to see in the photograph, you can’t help but have the impression that she is smiling with her eyes. It would seem to be that she is smiling from the depths of her young soul.
The photograph also speaks of her training. Again, a result of the intervention of BrookeUSA. She is taking responsibility for caring for the family’s donkey. She has reason to be proud of that. It would also seem reasonable to conclude that she has a great love for the animal.
We can think too of the tasks that the donkey likely helped the young girl perform earlier in the day. Perhaps early in the morning, the donkey helped her to haul water from the community’s well. Perhaps in the afternoon it will earn money for the family by transporting loads or carrying produce or other wares to market.
In this girl’s face, then, you can find not only health and pride in caring for her donkey, but also evidence of hope. There is hope in that smile that things can and do improve. The question that we can, unfortunately, not answer, at least at this point in time, is what has happened to this girl’s family in view of the pandemic? We can only hope and pray that she and her family are okay.
There is much to do. But we must work with the circumstances that we are presented with and do what we can. It was this same practical approach to making improvements in the circumstances of the poor that Dorothy Brooke took to heart. We hope to visit her example and work in a future show. What I will mention just now is how one scene in her biography reminded me of a scene in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street” which we spoke about during our show on Park Lane stables in London. Here, Dorothy Brooke had written to the Morning Post newspaper in England describing her situation trying to assist English war horses in Egypt after the First World War and asking for help.
Quoting a Biography of Dorothy: “Never had she envisaged such a response as that letter to the Morning Post brought forth. She was literally snowed under – cheques, postal orders, money orders, and letter upon letter of sympathy and encouragement...
All of this reminds me of the scene in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street,” wherein all of the bags of mail addressed to Santa Claus were delivered to Kris Kringle at the Court House and the judge asked the clerks to put the letters on his bench. It was those letters that ultimately and miraculously won Kris Kringle his freedom.
Originally, I said on our show regarding the campaign of Park Lane Stables of London, that a large corporation such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi might take the lead in raising money to help. As it turned out, the Stables received enough private donations to fulfill their need.
I suggested that perhaps they could put an equestrian photo on some of their cans. People would then know that when they chose their favourite soft drink a very small portion of the price would go to help horses.
It would seem like it is an appropriate time to raise the idea. This time to support an organization like BrookeUSA. I have decided to write the CEOs of Coca-Cola and Pepsi with that in mind.