Donkeys in development

Asia’s first ‘Donkey Assisted Therapy’ (DAT) program in was launched by Global Development Group project J766N ‘Bridging Lanka – Mannar District Development’ recently in Sri Lanka. Here, children with special needs and the gentlest Mannar donkeys were brought together to improve the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the children.

“DAT involves using donkeys in therapeutic work with humans. These donkeys can be included in counselling, teaching and education, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, disaster relief, mood enhancement and anger reduction. Donkeys can also be used to comfort the lonely, the war-affected or those facing loss. For the differently-abled, through contact with donkeys, they can learn life skills like confidence, self-esteem, communication and courage. Recent research points to the effectiveness of donkey therapy as a catalyst for improved physical, emotional and mental wellbeing for children, those with a disability and also the elderly in life giving ways,” Jeremy Liyanage, Director, Bridging Lanka, explains.

A group of Australian tourists dedicated a whole week to Bridging Lanka’s donkey welfare and other development programs in Mannar. Daily, the tourists fed and groomed donkeys, learnt about their care and handling and assisted the specially-abled children to overcome their fears and connect with these lovable creatures. The group also ‘brainstormed’ some great ideas to help develop a financially-sustainable donkey operation. Great joy was shared by everyone involved as they witnessed the special bond forming between child and donkey, ironically, two marginalised groups—children with a disability and the locally-despised donkeys.

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