We share the story of Nicky Langley, who joined us as a volunteer in 2018 and is now our Health and Safety Manager.

Our incredible team of volunteers are vital to our work. Each contribution is highly valued and makes a real difference to the donkeys in our care.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Nicky, who started her time with The Donkey Sanctuary as a Quality Time Volunteer and has since become our Health and Safety Manager.

When did you first become interested in working with The Donkey Sanctuary?

I’ve always loved animals. When I was a child I wanted to be a vet. However, as I grew up, I realised I was too sentimental to become one. Instead I followed a more pragmatic track, becoming an engineer. My career took me from the Midlands across oceans to work all over the world.

I’d always been aware of The Donkey Sanctuary and our paths crossed properly for the first time while planning our exit from the Middle East with ageing parents and a demanding job, we decided to stop, and found a beautiful house in Branscombe, Devon.

On paper, I had it all mapped out. I was going to work at The Donkey Sanctuary.

But when we finally arrived at the end of 2017 and I witnessed the smooth running of the sanctuary, I thought: ‘These people don’t need me. They must have volunteers coming out of their ears’.

How did you come to volunteer with us?

Later on, I got chatting to somebody who worked at the sanctuary. She told me how crucial volunteers were here, so I decided to try myself. I recognised the perfect opportunity for getting involved in the different donkey training courses. I signed up and took all of the classes.

It wasn’t a quick process to get further involved in the sanctuary until I was matched to a project assisting with a new Learning Management System (LMS). In my previous occupation, I had used several LMS systems. Although this task was mostly data entry, I worked with the team to develop the best use of the system.

An opportunity arose at the sanctuary’s Brookfield Farm as a Quality Time Volunteer. This was a slice of heaven. Here, quietness and patience are hugely rewarded, particularly when donkeys not known for trusting strangers came to me for love.

Other hands-on activities with donkeys have been with Donkey Assisted Therapy and taking part in the VIP and All Things Donkey experiences with the public. I still learn golden nuggets about our donkeys and witness new behaviours at these events.

How did you make the progression to becoming a member of staff?

Back behind a computer screen, I moved on to assisting the volunteer HR department. I also stretched my analytical brain by assisting with the drafting of vital reports for the charity. I felt incredibly humble to receive the charity’s ‘Golden Bray’ award in May 2019, one year after I started at the sanctuary.

I was also lucky enough to draw the golden ticket to attend the formal speeches during the visit of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall. During the event, I shook hands with the Duchess, who said to me, after noticing my volunteer shirt, 'This must be a wonderful place to volunteer.' She was right.

After being fortunate enough to volunteer for three years, the perfect vacancy came available to suit my 30 years of experience, and I am now the Health and Safety Manager for The Donkey Sanctuary!