“Remarkable” Leeds woman voluntarily organises fundraiser to save horse and donkey sanctuary from devastating Covid blow

A woman from Leeds has voluntarily organised a largely successful fundraiser for a horse and donkey sanctuary which has suffered financially from the impacts of Covid lockdowns.

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 12:37 pm
India Evans has volunteered for Hope Pastures sanctuary since being 16 (photo: India Evans)
India Evans has volunteered for Hope Pastures sanctuary since being 16 (photo: India Evans)

Just under 10 years ago at aged 16, India Evans ran into Hope Pastures Horse and Donkey Sanctuary in Adel, Leeds to ask if she could volunteer for them.

The now 25-year-old began with volunteering at weekends from then on until she was taken on as a paid weekend member of staff.

She took a small break to study horses at college, and then returned to the sanctuary at aged 21 to work for a year as a full time paid Equine Behaviour Trainer for horses.

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India Evans finished her fundraising challenge in the snow on Sunday (photo: India Evans)

Having then worked as a professional fundraiser for the NHS in the meantime, India returned to the sanctuary during the pandemic asking for a part time job.

The Adel resident said: "The lady I asked said she was worried about her own job as the sanctuary was really struggling as all fundraising events had been cancelled due to Covid.

"I was shocked and I couldn't let the sanctuary struggle so I decided I would utilise my skills from my previous job as a professional fundraiser and I spoke to the sanctuary manager about how I could help.

"I told her I had an idea to launch a 'Big 30 Challenge' for the sanctuary and she said she would trust me to run with it."

India then launched her #HopePasturesBig30 Challenge at the end of October which she made accessible to anyone and everyone by allowing people to make the challenge whatever they wanted to as long as it revolved around the number 30 to try and raise £30 for the sanctuary.

India gave people ideas such as running up and down the stairs 30 times for 30 days, or charging people £3 to wash 30 cars.

The challenge has since raised nearly £3,500 which is rising every week from loyal supporters.

India added: "Once I'd launched the campaign I wanted to do something myself but decided I had to raise more than £30.

"I decided to walk 62 miles of the Leeds Country Way as my contribution and my initial target was £100 but I've now raised just short of £1,000.

"I split it up over six weeks but on my first day I actually had a car crash on my way there.

"Whilst I was on gas and air I asked the paramedic if I could still do my walk that day but they advised I'd be better off going to A&E.

"Luckily I was discharged and so just under 10 days later on November 22 I was able to start my walking.

"The last day of my challenge was on Sunday (January 10) when everywhere was covered in snow and ice but I just wanted to get it done in the hope of receiving more donations.

"I walked with different people each week and made sure we stayed at a social distance to make the challenge Covid secure."

Hope Pastures' fundraising events usually bring in enough money to last through the winter, which is the most expensive time of year for rescuing horses and donkeys.

The sanctuary works to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome horses and donkeys, some of which have suffered mental and physical traumas.

India added: "It feels amazing to know that I've helped the charity and it's all about making sure it can get through this difficult time.

"I haven't filled the gap of all the events it has missed out on but for Hope Pastures to have a free resource to help with fundraising is vital.

"I've helped them without taking from them which is just the best."

Leonnie Martin, the Sanctuary Manager, said: "India is so organised, so methodical, so enthusiastic and so passionate.

"She has been absolutely everything you would want from a fundraiser and the fact she is doing it for nothing is phenomenal.

"Having raised just short of £5,000 altogether in such a professional manner leaves us with a really great fundraising template for the future when India might not always be around.

"She's encouraged and engaged everyone who has been a part of it and although she's made a massive difference with the cash she has raised, this isn't the be all and end all.

"She's helped to get Hope Pastures' name out there so people know who to call if they see a horse in distress.

"India is a remarkable young woman, she is sparkly, kind and she really has been a rock for us."

Click here to sign up or donate to the Big 30 Challenge and to donate to India's fundraising challenge here.