We collaborated with Pete’s Dragons, an Exmouth-based charity, to provide an unforgettable experience for local families bereaved by suicide.

For the first time, we welcomed families dealing with grief to experience a life skills session through our donkey-facilitated learning programme.

The families who attended from Pete’s Dragons were able to groom and spend individual time with pairs of donkeys. They also took part in an ‘approach and connect’ activity in order to explore emotional connection, social interaction and communication with their new furry friends.

Eilish Pryce, equine assistant at The Donkey Sanctuary, says: “As social creatures, donkeys are hard wired to pick up on the non-verbal communication of all sentient creatures that surround them, including humans, and will respond accordingly.

Socrates braying at DAT session with Pete's Dragons
DAT donkey Socrates handled by young person
Observing DAT donkey Socrates with Pete's Dragons

"They provide the perfect mirror for humans to see their own internal emotional landscape. 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, explains more about the important work undertaken by Pete's Dragons: “Our clients are at various stages of grieving. 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.

"Taking part in the donkey-facilitated learning programme was a fantastic opportunity, and we were delighted to be offered the life skills sessions. It was a lovely chance for the children to get up close with the donkeys, and fabulous for one of our clients who was in a wheelchair to have the chance to groom them.

“It was an enjoyable experience for everyone that I think they will not forget in a while.”

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