A rare honour has been conferred upon the British co-founder of an important African equine charity.
Heather Armstrong, co-founder and director of the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, has been made an Honorary Associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Only a small number of non-members are honoured with the associateship each year, in recognition of their special contribution to the veterinary field.
The RCVS said: “Heather Armstrong has made truly incredible contributions to both animal welfare and alleviating poverty. Growing up in The Gambia, she and her late sister, Stella Marsden, saw how many farmers were reliant upon donkeys and horses for their livelihoods. However, there was no tradition of horsemanship in The Gambia, which when combined with poor management, high disease risk and poverty, meant the animals often died within six months.”
Armstrong, of Ockley/Surrey, and her sister founded The Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust in 2002 with the aim of reducing rural poverty by increasing the productivity of working horses and donkeys through welfare, management and education.
Over the past 15 years, the Trust has implemented education programmes for farmers, schools and agricultural technicians; established training centres and veterinary teaching; and funded livestock assistants to pursue equine studies.
The RCVS statement continued: “Heather has been absolutely pivotal in making all this happen. She has been tireless in her efforts to promote horse and donkey welfare and poverty alleviation. We are honoured today to welcome Heather as an Honorary Associate of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.”
Armstrong said that for such a small charity, it was an “amazing honour”.
“But we couldn’t achieve what we do without the immense support of all the wonderful veterinary volunteers, practices and professionals who have trained our staff, supported our fundraising and donated equipment. I feel that everyone involved in the Trust should also share in this honour, not least our fantastic team in The Gambia,” she said.
“I would like to sincerely thank The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for this prestigious honour. I feel immensely proud and privileged and will treasure it always.”
In 2016, Armstrong won Animal Charity Volunteer of the Year from the Pet Plan Animal Charity Award and was awarded a Points of Light Award by David Cameron. In 2014, the Royal Veterinary College awarded her an Honorary Degree and, in 2012, the Trust was a runner-up in the Charities Aid Foundation Awards.