Most days, she’s out looking after the donkeys at the sanctuary she founded in Israel. But last week Lucy Fensom was at Buckingham Palace for one of the pre-Jubilee garden parties hosted by Queen Elizabeth.
Fensom began her charity, Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land, 12 years ago. At that time, she was a flight attendant, but when she was on a stopover in Israel and witnessed people abusing donkeys in a poor neighborhood, she decided she had to help. At first, she tried simply to bring the donkey she’d rescued home to England.
“One encounter with a badly wounded animal, who I named Donk, resulted in my purchasing him from his Bedouin owners and transporting him back to England to spend the rest of his life happily and peacefully at a sanctuary in Cambridgeshire.”
Then she realized she needed to do more. “I couldn’t bear to see the terrible cruelty inflicted on working animals throughout Israel and Palestine and the incredibly harsh lives they lead day after day.”
She returned to Israel, rented a small barn on a kibbutz and began to collect donkeys.
Today the sanctuary, near Netanya, is home to 160 donkeys, four horses and two mules. And Fensom, a Christian, is married to a Jewish Israeli. Safe Haven also operates a clinic in the Arab city of Kalkilya outside of Tel Aviv, and has a growing educational outreach.
“Rescuing animals who are destined to die of starvation after being abandoned on busy roads or who are too ill or old to work anymore is only a part of my work,” Fensom said. “My long-term aim is to change attitudes through education and care, teaching that love and respect for your animal will bring rewards all round as many families rely on their donkey as their only form of transport for earning a living to put food on the table.”
Safe Haven now has a royal patron, HRH Princess Alexandra. “It was such an honor to be invited to the Queen’s Garden Party, especially so close to the Jubilee,” Fensom told Britain’s Mid-Sussex Times. “The magnificent setting couldn’t be more different to our donkey sanctuary out in Israel but it was wonderful to be there and to talk to our Royal Patron, HRH Princess Alexandra, about the latest news from the sanctuary.”