Last year The Donkey Sanctuary celebrated 40 years of donkey assisted interactions and in our centre in Birmingham we celebrated 21 years of offering this service. This is a specialised service of The Donkey Sanctuary in line with their mission statement “To transform the quality of life for donkeys, mules and people worldwide through greater understanding, collaboration and support, and by promoting lasting mutely life-enhancing relationships.”
It has been a very successful journey so far and there some exciting changes ahoof. Our centre is having a make-over!
We are in the process of implementing a new heuristic donkey-orientated programme which will offer our children more interactions and time with our donkeys. They will be offered the opportunity to learn about the donkey as a sentient being and to understand their needs and learn how to care for them. This has resulted in some exciting changes in our playroom and riding arena.
Each child now has access to three donkey-related interactions when they enter our centre - riding, ground and play. Every week has target facts which inform about the donkey and our aim is for the children to absorb and take home some of these facts following their visit to us.
The biggest change and the most exciting initially is our playroom. This area is being developed into a virtual donkey learning and play area where the children can learn how to care for a donkey's welfare and needs through role play.
Since half term, the children have planted carrots and discussed the growing process. They have been pretend veterinarians, bandaged legs and listened to hearts. They have learnt how a donkey communicates by braying and that a donkey brays by vocalising on both the inhale and the exhale of a breath. It’s been quite a journey.
We have had several donations (for which we are very grateful) that have introduced a fresh focus to our playroom. Martin, a life size model donkey was donated by Raymond Polack. He has a short soft faux fur coat, his own grooming kit, headcollar and saddle. In time he will have his own rugs and bridle too. The children can groom him, put on his headcollar, tie his lead rein and fetch him water and treats. He is proving very popular.
Martin has a stable which was built for us by one of our very talented volunteers, Gemma. The children can clean out Martin’s stable (we have pretend pooh, made from pompoms), sweep it out and make him a fresh shredded paper bed to sleep on. Martin has a smaller cousin Rocky who will help teach about parts of the donkey and first aid. He has been equipped with a bridle, rugs and saddle by one of our mums.
We have also been donated an amazing play table by Andrew Smith of UNIQ Furniture, a Twitter supporter. We have model buildings, donkeys and vehicles. This table will be used to teach the children how to look after the donkeys, for example, what needs to happen when the weather changes. The children will learn that the donkeys need shelter from both rain and sun and also need fences to keep them safe.
We are very excited about all these changes and whilst it is early days our children are enjoying their new environment. They rush into the playroom and make their first task mucking out Martin’s stable. Having removed the pooh to the muck heap and brushed up they then take time to groom Martin before putting his bed back down and making sure he has fresh (pretend) water and treats. It’s a joy to watch.
We are looking for ongoing donations of farm related toys, model buildings, yard and garden implements, wheelbarrows and equine related child friendly items. Good quality items are always welcome.
Thank you for reading. It is an exciting time for donkeys, staff and children at our centre and we are looking forward to enabling our children to learn more about donkeys. We are based in Birmingham and there are 6 UK centres altogether who are making similar changes so please talk to your local Donkey Sanctuary centre to find out what they need if you would like to help.