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Miniature donkey charity founder gets award from Prime Minister

PUBLISHED: 12:00 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:00 09 May 2019

Sarah McPherson, founder of Mini Donks, has been recognised with a 'Points of Light Award' from Prime Minister Teresa May. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Sarah McPherson, founder of Mini Donks, has been recognised with a 'Points of Light Award' from Prime Minister Teresa May. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

(c) 2018 Archant Norfolk Prospect House Rouen Road Norwich

They may be small in stature but their impact has been huge and now the founder of a charity that uses miniature donkeys to promote the wellbeing of people with dementia has been recognised by the Prime Minister.

Sarah McPherson started Mini Donks in 2017 as a social enterprise that offers visits to care homes, schools and hospitals to relieve stress and improve wellbeing. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodSarah McPherson started Mini Donks in 2017 as a social enterprise that offers visits to care homes, schools and hospitals to relieve stress and improve wellbeing. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Sarah McPherson, from Hempnall Green, was inspired to set up 'Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing' after caring for her parents, who both suffered from dementia, and witnessing first hand the positive benefit of interaction with animals.

Now she has been given a 'Points of Light Award', a scheme that sees the Prime Minister recognise the work of outstanding individuals and inspirational volunteers who are making a change in their community.

In a personal letter to Sarah, Prime Minister Theresa May said: "Your therapeutic visits to care homes light up the days of those living with dementia. Your innovative work, which brings such joy to others, is a truly moving tribute to your parents."

Miniature donkey Rubik, with handler Pip Cullingford, visits the residents at Two Acres Nursing Care Home at Taverham in 2018. Picture: Denise BradleyMiniature donkey Rubik, with handler Pip Cullingford, visits the residents at Two Acres Nursing Care Home at Taverham in 2018. Picture: Denise Bradley

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Sarah's project, also known as Minidonks, offers cathartic experiences with miniature donkeys through therapeutic visits from the mini donkeys.

In their first year, her seven donkeys and team of hard working volunteers visited more than 200 care homes, special schools and community groups across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Miniature donkeys on a visit to meet residents at Heron Lodge care home in Wroxham in 2017. Picture: Kingsley HealthcareMiniature donkeys on a visit to meet residents at Heron Lodge care home in Wroxham in 2017. Picture: Kingsley Healthcare

Her first donkey visit was to the nursing home where both of her parents had been living. The project has been awarded over £49,000 by The National Lottery Community Fund.

Sarah said: "When I started Minidonks after the loss of my mum to dementia in 2017 I had no idea how far we would come in such a short time. We have been supported by so many people and companies, but the core to the whole thing is our volunteers.

"Our volunteers are amazing and accompany me on every single visit. I cannot describe the feeling of fulfilment when we visit a dementia setting, take one of our amazing minidonks into the bedroom of someone living with dementia, and their face just lights up.

Sarah McPherson, from Hempnall Green, was inspired to set up ‘Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing’ after caring for her parents, who both suffered from dementia. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodSarah McPherson, from Hempnall Green, was inspired to set up ‘Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing’ after caring for her parents, who both suffered from dementia. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

"That is why we do it, and we are now reaching far more people in settings ranging from secure psychiatric units, autism youth clubs, universities and colleges, spreading a bit of donkey love as we go. To be recognised in this way by the Prime Minister is an honour and a bit of a gobsmacking surprise."

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