Greetings from Norway!
As many of you probably have seen in some of Emmas posts from last week, we visited PFK a few days as part of a study trip. We would like to introduce ourselves and tell you a bit about our experiences as volunteers at PFK.
We are two teachers and four students from Peder Morset Folkehøgskole in Norway. A «folkehøgskole» is a kind of pre-college, it's quite common in the Scandinavian countries to spend a year at this kind of school after high school. It gives the students an opportunity to explore their interests and maybe help them set the course for their further education. At our school we offer a variety of courses, amongst others an equine course, which this group of students are following.
Each year we go on a study trip, we wanted to go some place we could make a difference, and a couple of years ago we got the idea to visit PFK in Egypt. We were familiar with their work only through Facebook, but did not know if it was even possible to visit as volunteers. We reached out through a FB-message, and long story short we made our way down to PFK for the first time at the end of February 2020, and stayed for a week just before most of the world closed down due to covid. Prior to our trip we did some fundraisers in Norway, both for money and for tack and other stuff they might need. For example things like flymasks and flysheets are difficult to come by in Egypt, even though they are very much needed, specially when dealing with wounds in the summer.
In 2021 we were not able to go because of covid, so we were very happy to be able to go again this year!
The first time we went to Cairo we had a bit of a cultural shock. The city is so full of life and noise, the traffic is (at least to a scandinavian) a chaotic mix of big trucks, cars, horsecarts, donkeys, tuk-tuks, camels and people. So many people! And they all honk their horns trying to make their way wherever they are going. When we finally made our way out to PFK in Abusir, which is a more rural area south of Cairo, it was so nice and quiet. All the animals were calm, and it was clear that they felt safe and loved.
This year was easier as we had made some experiences last time, and as we made our way through the city noise we couldn't wait to get to our quiet oasis at PFK. We lived at a hotel in Giza, which is about half an hour to drive from PFK. Upside of covid: most hotels and air bnbs have plenty of vacancies, so it’s possible to negotiate for a good price! Uber and taxi in general is fairly cheap, so getting around doesn’t really cost that much.
As usual the guys were very busy taking care of the horses when we arrived, but they gave us a warm welcome and a quick tour around the area. It was wonderful to see all the changes they have managed to do since last time, Temple-land is completely transformed, and they have made several new paddocks to accomodate more animals with special needs. Morad has done a great job organising everything, and things are running very smoothly. The atmosphere at PFK is very peaceful, the animals are calm and happy, and it is a very pleasant place to be.
One of the challenges of coming in as volunteers is communication. Morad speaks english fluently, but most of the guys only speak arabic. Some of them understand and speak a little bit of English, but for most of the time we communicate through handgestures and simple words, or ask Morad to translate. We quickly picked up a few arabic words (which we probably pronounced horribly, but we had fun trying!), but lesson learned: we now have a one year window to learn some more before we return.
As volunteers at PFK we have helped taking care of all the daily chores, from simple (but very much appreciated by the horses!) grooming to more advanced wound-care, assisting the vets when they came to examine cases that needed medical attention, walking the dogs and of course giving Humphrey and Bogart some much deserved cuddles. The last couple of days we also spent some time training some of the permanent fluffies. It is wonderful to see that all the hard work has paid off, and that some of the horses can be rehabilitated to a state where they have a clean bill of health and can be ridden. The horses clearly enjoyed all the attention, and loved to be challenged with some in-hand work. Morad now has a plan for a training program for the fluffies healthy enough to work, and we are sure the horses will love to be able to go for more rides in the desert and do some light ground work.
For our students this is a unique experience that I am sure they will remember for the rest of their lives. We firmly believe that visiting PFK will give them a lot of perspective, an opportunity to see the world differently, and perhaps with kinder eyes. They learn so much, not only about animals, but also about people, the world we live in, and how their presence actually can make a difference if they only put their minds and skills to it. We will definately be going back, over and over again, as long as they will have us.
We highly recommend visiting PFK as volunteers! (The delicious food is reason by itself! Seriously )