The resident herd at The Donkey Sanctuary Manchester have been helping lift the spirts of the Tameside Pulmonary Fibrosis Support Group (TPFSG), who recently spent some wellbeing time at the centre. Under the guidance of staff at the sanctuary, eight members of the group, which was set up by Clive Green and his wife Sue in 2018, took part in a wellbeing session alongside some of the 21 donkeys who live at the centre in Abbey Hey.

Former firefighter Clive, who suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, visited the sanctuary with his wife during a weekend visitor session in the summer. During the visit they heard about the donkey-assisted activities available to people within the local community. The programmes help support people’s wellbeing and the development of life skills, while also promoting positive attitudes towards donkeys.

Led by equine assistants Kate Sergeant and Adele Woodburn, a few of the group entered the arena, where some of the donkeys had the choice to interact with them, and the visitors could also choose to do the same with the donkeys. Donkeys Clanrye, Sam and Hector chose to take part in the session and connect with each person within the group. Fifteen-year-old Clanrye seemed to be particularly connected to Clive, and throughout the session, the small grey gelding stood by Clive’s side and lowered his head to be stroked.

Several of the group said the visit changed their perceptions of donkeys. They discovered that the equines were not the stubborn animals they are often portrayed as but are intelligent, sentient creatures.

“Our visit to the Manchester sanctuary was a wonderful experience, and even those who were a little wary at first were totally immersed in the whole experience,” said Clive. “Being among the donkeys, stroking them and talking to them, was uplifting and calming, and gave everyone a feeling of wellbeing, which is what it was all about. It is obvious to see that there is a lot of love for the donkeys from all who care for them.”

Robina Melling, Centre Manager at the Manchester sanctuary, said it was a pleasure to welcome the local group and to watch the interactions between them and the donkeys.

“It was also great to see and hear that their time spent with us help changed preconceptions they may have had before their visit, and we look forward to seeing them again soon,” she said.

Clive and his wife Sue started the Tameside group after they found the trip to his nearest support group could take an hour and a half to reach. He was also keen to provide support to fellow sufferers of the disease in a more upbeat way. Despite his condition and reliance on a portable oxygen cylinder, Clive is determined to look on the bright side of life and this is the ethos he instils among the rest of the group.

The group works to raise awareness of the condition and have launched their ‘Around the World with TPFSG’ campaign. They ask family, friends and people they meet to take one of their flyers with them on holiday, then to send in photos of the poster on their travels with a well-known landmark in the background. To date they have received photos from as far afield as Canada, Japan, China, Zambia and Vietnam, as well as celebrities getting involved too.

‘So much happier’

“At a recent group meeting following our visit, there was a lot of talk about it and how it left everyone feeling,” said Clive. “A couple of our members said they weren’t feeling their best mentally on the morning of the visit, but that they were very glad they came because when they left to go home, they felt so much happier.

“Having heard about the very positive responses to our visit, we now have many more members who would like to visit in the spring.”

The team at the Manchester sanctuary not only support people in their local community but provide training and support to donkeys in need. They help them to gain confidence and trust, with the hope that they can help find a ‘forever’ home through The Donkey Sanctuary’s Rehoming Scheme.

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