Here’s how you can help the donkeys - and how they can help you

Manager Jennifer Howarth at the Wonkey Donkey centre.
Manager Jennifer Howarth at the Wonkey Donkey centre.

Donkeys have helped Jenny Howarth through some incredibly tough times.

The 21-year-old is marking the fourth anniversary of her Knottingley sanctuary Wonkey Donkeys and wants to share the “magic” with the world.

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When Jenny was 10 she had a rare illness which left her isolated and unable to go to school for three years.

A broken foot was misdiagnosed as a sprained ligament and she had to walk on it for 10 weeks.

She was left with conversion syndrome where as a result of the pain her brain “shut down” and she was unable to read or write anymore.

That’s when she met Buttons, her first donkey, who helped her get over her condition.

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She said: “It was a scary time for me and my family. I was a shell of the kid I was.

“Buttons was a rescue donkey. When we first got him he was terrified of humans but he ended up being the best donkey you could imagine.

“He needed to get better and so did I.”

After her mum saw the benefit to Jenny’s health from spending time with donkeys through that difficult time in her life they decided to take a big step.

They sold their house to set up a sanctuary and lived in a caravan while the sanctuary became established.

In 2017 Jenny, her cousin and two aunties were present at the Manchester bombing in May 2017. Her aunties were seriously injured in the attack and all four suffered psychological harm in the aftermath. Once again, the donkeys played a key role in helping Jenny come to terms with the events.

Now she is looking for people to come visit the sanctuary so it is able to carry on its work and to make the most of the comfort the animals can bring.

Jenny said: “We help people – we can help people if they’re ill and even if someone is just having a bad day. It’s quite a magical place.

“It’s so difficult to say what it is about them but there is something special. They don’t ask you any questions and that’s just what I needed when I was poorly – it was just this donkey that wanted to spend time with me.”

The rescue centre is located at Little Oakes Farm on Cobercroft Lane at Cridling Stubbs.