I was delighted when the Penny Meadow Trust, based near Dedham, Essex approached us with a view to having foster donkeys. The Trust provides somewhere for young adults with learning disabilities to go and offers a variety of things for them to do. This is very close to my heart, having worked for a number of years at the Jane Walker Hospital which was home to a large number of additional needs adults and young people. The Trust has some 7 acres of land and have alpacas, goats, a horse and of course three beautiful donkeys - Jenny Jin, Pooke and Collaney Beauty.
Eventually there will be a craft centre with products made by the young adults and a tea room. Animals can work wonders with additional needs children, giving them confidence and encouraging interaction. The truly wonderful thing is that the animals themselves seem aware that these people need that little bit more and certainly our three donkeys have settled in really well and are so good with the young adults.
Jan, who runs the centre with husband Nick, is shown in the first picture giving the new arrivals a kiss! Jan has already told me of the joy the young adults are getting with the donkeys and how much they enjoy grooming, cuddling and leading them and even mucking out! This can be seen from the other two pictures.
Many of you will already be aware that The Donkey Sanctuary has 6 donkey assisted therapy centres around the country but these are primarily for children and give enormous pleasure as well as improving co-ordination skills and personal confidence. Our lovely donkeys are doing exactly the same in Dedham for the young adults.
Jan and Nick have even purchased a small trailer and it is hoped that the donkeys, together with their handlers, will be able to attend an agility day planned in February which will hopefully be great fun for donkeys and handlers alike!
I asked Jan for some information on the Trust and how they see the role of the donkeys and I will leave her to finish this blog in her own words:
"Penny Meadow is a life skills and personal development training centre for young adults with learning difficulties and was set up in August 2011 to help these young adults to continue with their development when they left education at the age of 19. Our aims are to motivate and inspire these young people and to enable them to reach their potential. Animal care is an important part of our work; caring for and interacting with animals is enormously beneficial for these young people and does much to encourage responsibility, boost self esteem and self confidence and to enable them to gain a sense of achievement. We now have three rescued donkeys, Pooke, Collany and Jenny. Our young people relax and enjoy the tranquillity of the countryside while tending to, caring for and learning all about these delightful animals. The donkeys display a remarkable empathy towards our young adults and love to be groomed and walked by them, not that our young people shy away from the less enjoyable tasks! To see the donkeys and young adults interacting is truly heart warming and awe-inspiring."