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Miniature therapy donkeys set to spread much-needed cheer after lockdown

PUBLISHED: 12:34 16 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:46 16 June 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

They may be small but this four-legged workforce packs a whole lot of love and after lockdown their services will be needed more than ever.

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

Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing, which provides animal therapy sessions for care homes across Norfolk, are gearing up to start spreading some much-needed cheer.

The charity, which was founded by Sarah McPherson, from Hempnall, was forced to stop all visits to care homes during the pandemic.

But now Kingsley Healthcare, a national care home provider, has stepped in to help by sponsoring all seven donkeys for a year and funding donkey-themed activity packs which will be given out to care home residents once visits resume.

Kingsley’s regional operations director, Georgina Johnston, who handed over a cheque for £445, said: “The donkeys have visited many of our homes across East Anglia and it’s amazing how they never fail to put a smile on the faces of residents and staff.

Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing visiting a Kingsley Healthcare home in Norfolk before lockdown. Photo: Kingsley HealthcareMiniature Donkeys for Wellbeing visiting a Kingsley Healthcare home in Norfolk before lockdown. Photo: Kingsley Healthcare

“The business has lost its income for the moment and we were delighted to help in a small way.”

Ms McPherson was supporting her mother through the later stages of dementia when she discovered that donkeys were one thing that really brought a smile back to her face.

She found that the donkeys she kept at her home had a “magical effect”, better than any medicine.

Ms McPherson said: “The calm nature of the donkeys made her calm and it made her smile which was something that had become quite rare.

Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing visiting a Kingsley Healthcare home in Norfolk before lockdown. Photo: Kingsley HealthcareMiniature Donkeys for Wellbeing visiting a Kingsley Healthcare home in Norfolk before lockdown. Photo: Kingsley Healthcare

“It is tremendous to see how the donkeys spark so many memories for people living with dementia.

“It brings back memories of donkey rides as children and, in Norfolk and Suffolk, many people come from a farming background and may have had a donkey.”

Following her mother’s death, Ms McPherson decided she wanted others to enjoy the therapeutic benefits of her donkeys and set up her social enterprise.

And with the help of about 30 volunteers, she takes them to those who are in need a bit of “mini donk” love.

Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing visiting a Kingsley Healthcare home in Norfolk before lockdown. Photo: Kingsley HealthcareMiniature Donkeys for Wellbeing visiting a Kingsley Healthcare home in Norfolk before lockdown. Photo: Kingsley Healthcare

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