Magical collaboration between donkeys and dragons provide an unforgettable experience

The Donkey Sanctuary partnered with the Exmouth based charity Pete’s Dragons who support people who have been bereaved by suicide. Families who are dealing with grief, were invited to experience a donkey-facilitated life skills session at The Donkey Sanctuary’s international headquarters in Sidmouth.

Pete’s Dragons is an Exmouth based charity that supports those bereaved by suicide. Families were welcomed to participate in a life skills session of the donkey-facilitated learning programme. The visit proved incredibly worthwhile, and was described as an ‘unforgettable experience’.

The families were able to spend time grooming the donkeys, and also took part in an ‘approach and connect’ activity. Staff from The Donkey Sanctuary made sure each person was able to spend some time on their own with a pair of donkeys and they were asked to evaluate the donkeys’ reactions as they approached.

The programme is designed specifically for vulnerable children and adults, with an aim of developing some key life skills as defined by the World Health Organisation. Interactions with the donkeys provide opportunities for emotional connection, social interaction, communication and developing key life skills.

Eilish Pryce, equine assistant at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “As social creatures, donkeys are able to pick up on the non-verbal communication of all sentient creatures that surround them, including humans and will respond accordingly. They provide the perfect mirror for humans to see their own internal emotional landscape, as conveyed by our non-verbal communication. By observing the donkeys’ reactions to us we can receive real-time feedback and develop greater awareness of ourselves with no bias or agenda.”

Kate Bedding, project manager at Pete’s Dragons, says: “This was our first visit to The Donkey Sanctuary, but we would like to return. Taking part in the donkey-facilitated learning programme was a fantastic opportunity, and we were delighted to be offered the life skills sessions. As part of our service, we organise children and family fun days designed to bring together those with a shared experience and send a clear message that it is ok to smile, and enjoy time together with their family and others.”

Kate concludes: “It was a lovely chance for the children to get up close with the donkeys and fabulous for one of our clients, who is in a wheelchair, to give him the chance to groom them. It was wonderful to watch our group interact with the donkeys and have the support of the staff. It was an enjoyable experience for everyone that I think they will not forget in a while.”

The Donkey Sanctuary works to transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide through greater understanding, collaboration and support, and by promoting lasting, mutually life-enhancing relationships.

To find out more about Exmouth-based charity Pete’s Dragons, please visit their website: http://www.petesdragons.org.uk/What_we_do_345.aspx