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'Everyone loves donkey time': Norfolk animals to star on BBC Countryfile

PUBLISHED: 13:10 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:10 08 January 2020

Sarah McPherson started Mini Donks in May 2017 as a social enterprise that offers visits from its miniature donkeys to care homes, schools and hospitals to relieve stress and improve wellbeing.
 PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

Sarah McPherson started Mini Donks in May 2017 as a social enterprise that offers visits from its miniature donkeys to care homes, schools and hospitals to relieve stress and improve wellbeing. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

(c) 2018 Archant Norfolk Prospect House Rouen Road Norwich

Norfolk's miniature donkeys have been stealing hearts across the county and now they are set to make their debut on BBC One's Countryfile.

Founder of Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing, Sarah McPherson (right) and her volunteers with Countryfile presenter, Sean Fletcher. Photo: Miniature Donkeys for WellbeingFounder of Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing, Sarah McPherson (right) and her volunteers with Countryfile presenter, Sean Fletcher. Photo: Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing

Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing have been improving the lives of people across Norfolk and Suffolk as they visit care homes, dementia sufferers or anyone who needs a bit of "donkey time".

But now these loveable animals will appear in front of the nation at 6.10pm on Sunday, January 12, on an episode celebrating the work that volunteers and communities do in the countryside.

Sarah McPherson was inspired to set up Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing, which is based in South Norfolk, in 2017, after caring for her parents, who both suffered from dementia, and witnessing first-hand the positive benefit of interaction with animals.

Three years on, Ms McPherson said she "can't quite believe" her project would now appear on the BBC One show.

Founder of Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing, Sarah McPherson, with Countryfile presenter, Sean Fletcher. Photo: Miniature Donkeys for WellbeingFounder of Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing, Sarah McPherson, with Countryfile presenter, Sean Fletcher. Photo: Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing

She said: "It's an amazing thing. I have been watching Countryfile for years and very regularly on a Sunday night so I can't quite believe we are going to be on it.

"It has come out of a lot of hardship, seeing how bad my mum got and the benefit she got from the donkeys and now my dad being at end of life with dementia.

"I can't do anything for them now, but we have been able to help an awful lot of people."

Ms McPherson and her three donkeys Millie, Bopeep and Pippin, will appear along with volunteers Sandra Merric, Linda White and Tim Wright.

The Countryfile team will be visiting Welney Wildlife Reserve in Norfolk and Sean Fletcher hears how mini donkeys are helping residents of a Welney care home. Photo: BBC One CountryfileThe Countryfile team will be visiting Welney Wildlife Reserve in Norfolk and Sean Fletcher hears how mini donkeys are helping residents of a Welney care home. Photo: BBC One Countryfile

In the episode, presenter Sean Fletcher hears how the mini donkeys are helping residents of a Welney care home.

The founder also gives an emotional interview about her parents' battle with dementia and the effect the mini donkeys have on those suffering with the degenerative disease.

Ms McPherson added: "They make people smile, they make people happy, they make people feel calm. They are gentle little souls and everyone loves donkey time.

"Particularly with dementia sufferers they can help people to reconnect with their memories. They may remember taking children to the beach and riding the donkeys or people with rural backgrounds remember donkeys on farms.

Sarah McPherson started Mini Donks in May 2017 as a social enterprise that offers visits from its miniature donkeys to care homes, schools and hospitals to relieve stress and improve wellbeing.
PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood
Sarah McPherson started Mini Donks in May 2017 as a social enterprise that offers visits from its miniature donkeys to care homes, schools and hospitals to relieve stress and improve wellbeing. PICTURE: Jamie Honeywood

"But the people that benefit aren't just the people we visit, the volunteers get a lot out of it."

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