Staff and volunteers from mental health charity Devon Mind recently spent the day at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Ivybridge centre where they took part in a mindfulness session alongside some of the resident donkeys.

The aim of the day was to showcase the animal welfare charity’s Donkey Assisted Activities (DAA) programme, giving the team from Devon Mind a greater understanding of the theory behind it and the support available to their clients through the programmes.

Devon Mind is an independent mental health charity affiliated with the national Mind association. They provide advice and support to anyone in the county who may be experiencing a problem with their mental health.

Each local Mind branch tailors their services to match the needs of its community. Such services include talking therapy, peer support, advocacy, crisis care, employment and housing support. One of the services that they will now be referring beneficiaries to is the Donkey Assisted Activities programmes at the Devon sanctuaries in Ivybridge and Sidmouth.

The day started with a tour of the centre, followed by a presentation and an opportunity to network with the Ivybridge and DAA Development teams.

Holistic support

On their visit to the Ivybridge centre, the Devon Mind team engaged in a mindful activity and were then guided through an activity with the donkeys.

“It was incredibly moving watching the donkeys work with the Mind team,” said Victoria Banfield, DAA Development Lead. “I am consistently in awe of how powerful this self-development can be.

“I think that the donkeys made a big impression on the participants, allowing them the time and space to ruminate on what their needs are, which can sometimes get suppressed when working within the healthcare and social support industry.

“The practitioners present on the day have already started to refer in clients for our services, but we do hope to welcome back the team from Mind so that they also get to reap the benefits of being in the presence of these sentient creatures.”

Marianne Steele, CEO of The Donkey Sanctuary added: “The fact that Mind, a powerful advocate for mental health, is bringing its own staff to The Donkey Sanctuary, to experience first-hand the positive impact donkeys can have on our wellbeing, really is testament to the mutual benefits of sharing a close connection.

“This new partnership will open the door for more people to benefit from connecting with our donkeys, promoting positive attitudes towards donkeys while contributing to their rehabilitation.”

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