Two cute miniature donkeys padded into a care home – and became an instant hit with the residents.
Sisters Winifred and Jenny, both aged eight, are just 36 inches tall but they’re already big mates with the people who live at Bryn Seiont Newydd on the outskirts of Caernarfon.
The adorable duo were there as part of a ground-breaking art project at the dementia centre of excellence run by the Pendine Park care organisation.
The workshops are being held in conjunction with Age Cymru and Snowdonia Donkeys which was established in 2013 to promote health and well-being through working and walking with donkeys.
Lora Morgan, who works as an enrichment co-ordinator at Bryn Seiont Newydd, explained: “Residents meet the donkeys in the courtyard area where they can stroke and pet them.
“We hope this will stir memories whether of seeing and riding donkeys on the beach or seeing them on farms. We then go to the art room and make sketches of the donkeys.
“I’m hoping to do some textile work with residents based on their experiences of meeting the donkeys. The donkeys spent an hour-and-a-half with residents and it was clear residents enjoyed the event.
“They were stroking and talking to Winifred and Jenny and some spoke of their memories of donkey rides when they were children. I’ve no doubt this is a really worthwhile project and I’m looking forward to seeing the art work residents produce.”
Bryn Seiont Newydd’s musician in residence, Nia Davies Williams, is also working with the residents to create a song based on the donkeys.
She said: “I’m hoping the song will rekindle some childhood memories.
“It is clear residents really enjoyed having contact with the two visiting donkeys. They enjoyed stroking them and talking about their own experiences with donkeys.”
Snowdonia Donkeys was founded by husband and wife Chris and Ruth Stronge.
Ruth, who also works as a teacher at Bangor’s Ysgol Ein Harglwyddes (Our Lady’s Roman Catholic Primary School), says Snowdonia Donkeys received a £500 grant from Age Cymru to deliver the art project using donkeys as a stimulus.
She said: “It’s about providing residents of Bryn Seiont Newydd with an opportunity to remember, if they can, events from their earlier life. We also took along donkey postcards and pictures which we handed out to residents.
“We will be taking donkeys along Bryn Seiont Newydd once a week for three weeks. Residents can stroke the donkeys and talk to them. They then go with Lora to the art room and sketch the donkeys.
“What we are hoping for is that the end of the project we will plot the journey the residents have been on with our donkeys. Some residents were drawing pictures of donkeys there and then and they were all talking about them.
“In fact we understand one resident hasn’t spoken for weeks until he saw Winifred and Jenny, as we normally call Jennifred. That was amazing.”
Ruth is eager to point out that Snowdonia Donkeys is not a sanctuary for unwanted or rescued donkeys.
She said: “We use donkeys to deliver donkey assisted activities and provide the opportunity for people to have contact with donkeys.
“By introducing more people to donkeys we can show what incredible animals they are and improve the welfare of donkeys in the region.
“Jenny and Winifred were not rescued and in fact we have trained then to work with people. They are gentle and trusting animals and ideal for working with older people.”
She added: “It really is an exciting project and I can’t wait to see the art work that residents produce. It’s clear the donkeys are a big hit with residents and and it’s nice to see people so happy.”
According to Bryn Seiont manager Sandra Evans, the visits by the miniature donkeys were very popular with the residents and part of Pendine Park’s on-going commitment to the arts.
She said: “We are passionate about enhancing the quality of life for our residents through our enrichment programme which wholeheartedly embraces the arts as means of reaching out to people.”
To find out more Snowdonia Donkeys please visit www.snowdoniadonkeys.com