The Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing based in South Norfolk will be able to spread even more love, thanks to National Lottery funding awarded this month. Here, MD Sarah McPherson explains how the funding will help her mission to bring a touch of Minidonk magic to as many people and communities as possible
Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing, a Norfolk social enterprise that provides mood-boosting, therapeutic miniature donkey visits to people in care homes, hospitals, schools and a range of other group and residential settings, has received a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund, allowing it to continue its important work in the county.
Based in South Norfolk, the social enterprise is run by managing director Sarah McPherson, two part-time staff and an incredible team of volunteers.
Sarah lost both her mum and dad to dementia but, even in her final months, Sarah’s mum had always loved being with her daughter’s two miniature donkeys. At her mum’s wake, Sarah announced to everyone that she was going to quit her job to set up Minidonks. The social enterprise was established in 2017 and, since then, Sarah and her team have delivered more than 700 wellbeing visits across Norfolk and Suffolk, bringing joy to thousands of people.
This February, the National Lottery Community Fund awarded Mindonks a £286,848 grant to be split over a five-year period, enabling it to plan.
Sarah says: ‘This funding will allow us to visit settings where they would not otherwise be able to cover the cost of a visit. The grant will also support us with our running costs, which have risen dramatically. Our fuel bill, for one example, has risen by 40% in the last year alone.
‘The funding will also cover the cost of training two volunteers to become team leaders each year, ensuring that they have the right qualifications in place to transport equines and manage visits safely and professionally. We can also help to cover volunteer travel expenses to ensure our wonderful team can afford to get to the places that need us. Our activity packs are really popular with care homes, because they help activity coordinators to keep spreading Minidonks joy, long after the visit is over. The National Lottery funding will allow us to produce 100 free packs each year.’
The National Lottery Community Fund grant will also be used to expand the supported volunteering opportunities that Minidonks is able to provide, enabling people who need a little more help to get involved with the social enterprise.
The single, biggest purchase that the Lottery funding will allow is a 5-seater replacement vehicle for the social enterprise’s existing 3-seater lorry. It means volunteers will be able to travel together to visits rather than using multiple vehicles, helping to reduce the Minidonks’ carbon footprint.
And to allow even more people to experience the magic that Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing bring, the funding will pay for two Pop-up Farm events in 2023. Free to attend for people living with a special need, disability or struggling with their mental health, and their families.
‘We love taking our gentle, friendly miniature donkeys to care homes and other settings, and through these Lottery-funded Pop-Up Farm events even more people living with life-limiting conditions can get up close and personal with our wonderful herd, plus lots of other animals,’ says Sarah. ‘Spending time with animals brings genuine therapeutic benefits and moments of pure joy to people living with complex disabilities and conditions such as dementia; even those people who are largely considered to be ‘locked-in’. It’s our mission to bring a touch of Minidonk magic to as many people and communities as possible.’
Featured image of Hollie Ireson (left) and Sarah McPherson, of Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing – picture credit: Pippa Lain-Smith