Text by Sarah Harper – Photos by Enrique Urdaneta
Brooke USA Ambassador and professional polo player Nic Roldan accompanied Brooke USA Executive Director Emily Dulin to Guatemala in September to experience firsthand Brooke’s work focused on improving the lives of that country’s horses, donkeys, and mules.
Led by Brooke Guatemala’s Executive Director Mario Sapón Pellecer, Roldan and the Brooke USA traveled more than 2,000 miles in seven days to visit communities in the Zacapa and Quiche regions. Guatemala’s arduous terrain made the trip challenging, since the distances between communities is vast.
“I was blown away by the number of people, particularly women, who rely on the donkeys they use to carry their essentials such as wood, water and other goods,” Roldan said. “It was an emotional moment to see how these people live, how proud they are and how enthused they are to learn. It was truly inspirational. It was amazing to see where the funds that Brooke USA raises were being used.”
Guatemala’s 250,000 equines make it the most densely populated country in Central America. Most of the working equine population is used for transporting agricultural products (produce, firewood, etc). Reaching working horses, donkeys and mules and their owners and users in much of Guatemala is problematic due to the mountainous terrain and remote communities, which make it difficult for animals to receive the healthcare that they need to continue their important jobs providing a livelihood for their impoverished owners.
“We went to visit a man who had three mules he used to fetch wood,” Roldan explained. “He was having trouble with one of them so the Brooke team was helping by teaching him how to handle his mule correctly so that it could be a more useful asset for him. It’s great to see how they take the time to explain how to handle these working equines correctly.”
Roldan and the Brooke USA team also spent time in a community where Brooke has had a long-term presence. They met a local man, Don Roberto, who was taught to shoe the working equines of the local community by Brooke, which is not an easy endeavor.
“You have to realize that he has to remodel a normal pair of pincers into hoof clippers for instance in order to do his work,” Roldan explained. “It was great to see the work he did and again how amazing all The Brooke’s field staff are — caring, welcoming, professional — I’m very proud to be a part of this organization.”
Photos by Enrique Urdaneta enriqueurdaneta.com