To mark the end of Volunteers' Week 2017 we caught up with one of our dedicated volunteers who discovered that donkeys were the missing piece of her life.
When volunteer Ross Hill was a toddler, she wandered off during a family visit to an animal sanctuary and was later discovered sitting in a paddock with a donkey foal - it was the start of something special...
Ross said: "I have always had a bit of a soft spot for equines. That image of me has followed me and stuck with me through my life over the last 50 years or so, but I never really knew the story behind it.
"It wasn’t until it came up in conversation with my sister that I realised how it happened. She said ‘we lost you at this sanctuary, and when we found you, there you were deep in conversation with a donkey’. I thought ‘hang on a minute, if that’s how it happened then there was always something missing in my life'. I always wondered what it was, but now I know: it was donkeys.
"Why do I volunteer? It’s the ability to give back. Over the last however many years we have watched Dr Svendsen [The Donkey Sanctuary founder] do all her work and we have donated and followed them. But in recent years I've really wanted to give something back to the sanctuary.
"If I can free up a full-time member of staff to do another - perhaps more important - job and do some of the work myself then that's fine by me.
"I love being around the donkeys. I love interacting with them and love the way they are so loving, calming and trusting – and forgiving! I hate the way we have mistreated the donkeys over the millennia, and if I can groom, stroke or cuddle a donkey for half an hour, then that's my small way of saying sorry about what we have done. It lets me do my little bit.
"I do my hours of voluntary work at the sanctuary and then I go off and find some donkeys to stroke and play with. I can tell them my deepest darkest secrets; that is actually my payment, I ask for nothing more than the opportunity to spend time with the donkeys."