Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing purchase new transport to enable the group to expand their wellbeing visits.

Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing was set up in 2017 by Sarah McPherson, who having worked with family carers professionally and having been a family carer herself for two parents with dementia, knows firsthand how stress can be relieved by spending time with beautiful animals.

The organisation offers therapeutic visits by miniature donkeys to groups of people across Norfolk who are vulnerable, isolated or disadvantaged (including but not limited to residents of care homes, nursing homes, special educational needs units, tenants of housing with care units, users of autism or dementia support units).

The visits provide residents, many of whom cannot get out and about, with an opportunity to touch and stroke miniature donkeys up close in communal areas and bedrooms. Life in these various settings can be daunting and isolating and these visits act as an opportunity for residents to come together to socialise and act as a positive stimulus for those individuals suffering from the impact of dementia. The residents, and volunteers involved with the group themselves, report experience of low to moderate mental health issues ranging from stress and anxiety to depression and low self-esteem.

Feedback from visits has included;

Amazing reactions from all residents, especially those with restricted communication. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience – smiles all round!

You guys (most of all the donkeys) are awesome! Bringing joy and happiness to those who can’t get out easily.

The main highlight has to be for one resident who never leaves her bedroom. This lady suffers from dementia and as soon as she saw them her face lit up. She absolutely loved them.

You kindly took two donkeys into my wife’s room, to say it made our day was an understatement! In fact, my wife said; “It is something I will never forget.”

In their first year of operation Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing delivered over 160 visits to a range of settings and there remains a strong need to increase their capacity to cover the increasing demand for the service. As part of this development they required a reliable mode of transport for their growing activities and to widen their reach ensuring the organisation’s sustainability. They have recently received support through NCF, with our donors contributing towards the purchase of a 3.5 ton horse lorry to safely transport the donkeys and associated equipment for visits and to attend promotional events.

You know I said we have some exciting news coming..... well here it is.The Minidonks have got their wheels in time for Christmas. We have been fundraising and applying for grants and putting our savings into the pot, and then, the wonderful people at Owens Horseboxes Ltd said they would close the gap between what we had raised and the cost of the lorry with a sponsorship deal. How amazing is that? It didn’t stop there though, they also designed our artwork and Emma created a fantastic back door design featuring our very own Saffy. The graphics company, Fusion Graphics gave us a lovely discount as well. We have been given great support throughout our fundraising journey by Norfolk Community Foundation, who have advised us, been great with feedback, even when it is to let us know that we have not been successful and been really happy for us when we have been successful. So, we have been funded by, The National Lottery, The Geoffrey Watling Foundation, The East of England Co-op, Saracen South Norfolk Fund, Shelroy Charitable Trust Fund, Asda, the John Jarrold Trust, and just as importantly, by amazing individuals who have given via our JustGiving page. The other person that I have to thank is my partner, Richard Drake. When I lost my mum in April 2017 and said I wanted to give up my job and take the donkeys to care homes, he was behind me 100%. He said, to get me started I could borrow his van. 18 months, 220 visits and over 4,000 miles later, he has got his van back! Thank you Mr Drake.Thank you all for your support, donations, donkey sponsorships and kind words. Now the girls can travel in style and comfort to make more people happy.

Posted by Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing on Thursday, 13 December 2018