Fondation Helga Heidrich SOS Animaux
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IBAN: DE39 250800200561400400
Attijariwafa Bank, Marrakesh/Morocco
AN ANIMAL SHELTER
THE HELGA HEIDRICH FOUNDATION SOS ANIMAUX
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The Helga Heidrich Foundation (SOS Animaux) is an animal rescue shelter situated near Marrakech in Morocco. We heard about it via the internet and since we were visiting Marrakech we decided to get in touch and see if we could visit. We wanted to learn more about what the shelter did and if we found it to be genuine (so many charities nowadays seem to use far too much of their funds to pay admin and project management costs and that’s not what we want to support) we’d try to support it ourselves and spread it’s message as widely as possible.
Helga responded to our email and said that she’d be happy to meet up with us. Later, nearer to the time of our visit, she said that a friend, Rosemary, had been in touch and said she’d be happy to give us a lift to the shelter (it’s a half hour drive outside of the city).
Before I continue, I should say something about why animals need a shelter in Morocco. Firstly, here’s an excerpt from the shelter’s website that describes typical conditions for working donkeys and horses in Marrakech.
“The animals suffer from open, ulcerating wounds and have to work until they break down. Flies cover their wounds and they don’t get any medication. At night they are sent to the local garbage dump to find some food. Water is sometimes forgotten at 40° C in the shade! Barbed wire serves as a bridle. As a consequence of carrying excessive loads, their bowels protrude through the anus. To make them move faster, nails and canes are driven into their flanks until they start bleeding or they are kicked in the genitals. The carts are often overloaded so that the animals break down. Then they are kicked to get up again…”
As well as having the usual problems there that we do in England and North America, of animals taken on as pets whilst young and then abandoned when they’re no longer cute (in Morocco they may be monkeys, peacocks, camels and giant tortoise) and the general cases of cruelty outlined above there are also problems created by people using Islam as an excuse to mistreat dogs.
This last point is worth expanding on in an effort to promote better understanding and perhaps change a few minds. It’s common nowadays for Muslims to shy away from dogs. In North Africa in recent years dogs have been poisoned en masse with the governments approval (I’m not taking the moral high ground here, my own government sanctioned the mass execution of badgers recently which is as much an act of stupidity and cruelty as anything that’s going on in Morocco) and more recently dogs have been shot by teams of marksmen employed by local government officials. I’m not talking just about street dogs here but also pets. It’s hard to believe but there have been reports of gunmen walking into private homes and murdering pet dogs here in North Africa, merely because they can.
Whether you believe this last point or not, hopefully you get the broader picture. As it stands, animals have their backs against the wall in North Africa and our four legged and winged friends desperately need our help.
Ali Baba the camel was the first animal we saw as we entered the shelter. He’d been a pet as a youngster but then had gotten too big to care for. Quite how a human being can function in todays world and not understand that a camel grows large is quite beyond me. There sure are some incredibly insular people around… Still, we got out of the van and said hello to Ali Baba. He likes to eat carrots and bananas, so said Abdul, who has a special affection for Ali Baba and visits him regularly.
Helga doesn’t charge for visits but any donation you can offer will greatly help feed the animals. Consider also buying a bag of carrots and bananas before you go, Ali Baba, the donkeys and the monkeys love them. Hassan can help with this.
If you’re not going to Marrakech but would still like to help check out the shelter website, which gives you details of how you can donate. Be assured that Helga and Mark are completely genuine and really do care about what they’re doing, and that all money goes towards feeding the animals.