A pensioner who ran a donkey sanctuary had a “wonderful surprise” when two special visitors trotted into the care home where she now lives.
Peggy Morris, 87, was thrilled when donkeys Jenny and Winnie arrived at Bryn Seiont Newydd, Pendine Park’s centre of excellence for dementia care in Caernarfon.
The four-legged duo were there as part of an intergenerational art and craft project to make postcards with pupils from Ysgol Bontnewydd.
According to Bryn Seiont Newydd’s musician in residence, Nia Davies Williams, the residents always enjoy seeing and working with children and having donkeys along was an exciting bonus.
She said: “The project we are working on is about making post cards and we have been creating our own. It’s lovely seeing children working with residents. It seems there are no barriers and they get along so well.
“Residents obviously adore seeing children and having the chance to chat and work together is wonderful.
“And the donkeys really helped some residents think about their past whether it was seeing donkeys in the rural settings in which they lived or at the beach on holidays.”
She added: “It’s been a fantastic project and the donkeys were very well behaved as where residents and of course the pupils! It’s just so lovely to see the connection despite the generational gulf.
”This project was a great way of breaking down barriers to foster an awareness and understanding of dementia, as well as enriching lives across the generations.”
Before retiring Mrs Morris, who hails from Mancot, in Flintshire, ran the Blaenau Dwr Donkey Sanctuary in Froncysyllte near Llangollen.
She said: “We had six donkeys at one time including my favourites, Blackie, Dido and Yoyo.
“Jenny and Winnie look in very good health and are beautiful. I’ve really enjoyed seeing them and the children. It brings back so many memories and it’s been lovely.
“Everyone loves donkeys they are so gentle. I can remember seeing so many on the beach for children to ride when I was a girl. There aren’t so many now which is a shame.”
Jennie and Winnie were brought to Bryn Seiont Newydd by Chris Stronge, who founded Snowdonia Donkeys, a donkey rescue centre at Tregarth, near Bangor.
He said: “We currently care for 12 donkeys which we are aiming to re-home if and when we find suitable new owners. Jenny and Winnie are Welsh donkeys from Anglesey and are around nine years of age. We think they are twin sisters.
“It’s lovely to see the connection between residents, the donkeys and the children. They have been stoking Jenny and Winnie and brushing them.
“I also teach creativity at Bangor University and it’s great to see the children working alongside residents as they make their post cards.”
He added: “The post cards have been made using stencils, paints, printing blocks and lots of imagination. It’s been fabulous seeing residents and children working together.”
Bryn Seiont Newydd manager Sandra Evans says residents just come alive when working with children and having contact with the donkeys.
She said: “I’ve never seen some residents react like they have through this project. Some residents say very little yet they have come out of their shells talking to the children and stroking the donkeys.
“It’s made a huge difference and for me it’s a win, win situation with everyone gaining from having such a positive experience.”
Teacher Rowena Robert-Evans added: “It’s been lovely seeing how the children interact with residents and they have loved seeing the donkeys.
“This is a topic we can talk about back in school as well as making the post cards here with residents. It’s just lovely seeing residents taking part and putting in so much effort alongside the children.”
Pupils Begw Sheret, seven, Anest Seddon, six, and Ben Hughes, seven, really enjoyed the project.
Begw said: “I’ve loved seeing the donkeys and stroking them. It’s also been nice talking to the older people.”
Anest added: “The donkeys are so fluffy and friendly and it’s been nice stroking and brushing them.”
Ben said: “It reminds me of the beach as that is where you see donkeys. Talking to the older people has been nice, I was a bit shy but they have some funny stories about when they were young.”