What a few weeks it has been. When I joined The Donkey Sanctuary last month I thought I had a good idea of what the Sanctuary in Devon was all about.
How wrong I was.
As I outlined in my previous blog, I have been afforded one of the most insightful and advantageous inductions anyone could wish for entering this job.
I have been given the opportunity to spend time with a wide range of different departments, educating myself about the wide spectrum of projects and tasks the Sanctuary undertakes.
What I have been most impressed by is something which I was unaware of before my arrival – the level of engagement with the community for the benefit of donkeys and children alike.
This was driven home to me with two visits in particular.
First of all was a trip over the border into Cornwall to see the benefits of the Sanctuary’s foster scheme.
These ‘Foster Owners'’ are immensely valued by the charity, they give donkeys a dedicated home full of love and care, while freeing up resources for our welfare advisers to continue their quest to improve the lives of even more donkeys.
These particular donkey devotees - Celia and Des Wearne – had given a new home to Jacques and Nicholas, and the pair were clearly as happy as donkeys can be to have been welcomed into the loving home.
Equally, Des and Celia told us that rehoming Jacques and Nicholas had given them “a reason to get up in the morning”.
Does it get much better than that?
On this trip I also met Alison Beck, the Sanctuary’s Donkey Welfare Adviser for Cornwall. Her role is to support Donkey Guardians whenever they need it, be that advice, help or even emotional support.
You couldn’t wish to meet a more loving and dedicated member of the team, completely devoted to the rehomed donkeys as well as her own, and she has walked step by step with Des and Celia through the highs and lows.
That’s the great thing I have discovered about the Foster scheme, no matter how long you have your donkeys for, The Donkey Sanctuary is there by your side the whole way – for life.
Another part of the Sanctuary’s work which I have been eager to get to learn about is the role of the Donkey Assisted Therapy Centre which provides therapy and interaction for individuals with additional needs.
I spent the day at our base here in Sidmouth, meeting the donkeys who are selected for their temperament and brilliant behaviour with children and it is clear to me that they enjoyed meeting the children, who came in two by two to ride the donkeys and perform a number of tasks.
It was great to be able to see this side of the Sanctuary’s work. The children loved every minute of it and the donkeys were so patient and well-behaved.
I was told how the centre just would not be able to run were it not for the dedicated army of volunteers. There are so many opportunities to get involved as a volunteer.
Each day I am learning a little bit more about the Sanctuary and meeting a few more staff members, volunteers, visitors – oh, and donkeys.
I don’t know if I’m supposed to have a favourite, but Wonky at Cottage Barn is a cheeky chappy with a mind of his own and a distinctive bent ear. You may spot him when visiting adoption donkeys Walter and Timothy.
After my previous blog I had a whole host of supporters on our Facebook page from around the world welcoming me to the Sanctuary and wishing me luck, so thank you all.