Updated: Sep 2, 2021
By Elizabeth Gracen:
THE FEED is an ongoing series about fascinating curated accounts on Instagram—my favorite social media platform. It's not an everyday indulgence, but I've yet to be disappointed once I slip down the image rabbit hole. If I dig a bit deeper on the accounts that interest me, I usually find a person or organization with a big vision and a tender passion for something outside themselves. I'm incredibly grateful when this happens; it gives me some hope in this crazy world, and it always compels me to reach out and ask for an interview to find out how it all happened.
Such is the case with River Link Donkeys and Animal Sanctuary.
River Link Donkeys and Animal Sanctuary was started in 2010 after the organization's founder, Marion Thompson, decided to revive her childhood memories of New Brighton Donkey rides in England. Her initial intent was to bring back beach donkey rides and rekindle that special feeling she experienced in her childhood, but as with most things in life, that early passion morphed into something bigger. Four donkeys became nine . . . and then four rescued horses destined for the meat trade were added. Now, River Link Donkeys and Animal Sanctuary is spread over three locations and is home to donkeys, horses, sheep, and rabbits. The donkeys are now retired and they spend their days enjoying a peaceful and tranquil life at the Sanctuary.
With plans to develop a local farm project, community garden, and café, the organization also plans to grown their Pets as Therapy programs to help people find the help and support they need with mental health and welfare issues.
EG: When I look about your terrific website, I’m immediately captivated by the photography of these lovely creatures. I love how you’ve given each of your donkey’s their own page, describing their personalities and relationships with the other animals at the sanctuary. I’m a dog person, but if I had a farm, I would most certainly have donkeys! What is so special about these animals? How would you describe the basic personality of a donkey?
RLD: The basic personality of our donkeys is caring, loyal, and cheeky! Most of our donkeys come from terrible places but are now all together with their special friends. Seeing the progression and how far they have come is amazing, and despite some of their backgrounds they remain so happy and friendly.
EG: Your initial passion to bring back donkey rides to the beach grew into a much bigger project. How has this progression and transformation into a sanctuary changed your life? What have you learned?
RLD: Having the donkeys has changed my life completely in every single way. My entire being is dedicated to them, and no matter what, they come first. The same way that some people's lives revolve around their children, mine now revolves around the donkeys. They have taught me so much patience and to trust their judgement.
EG: What you have endeavored is a massive project and commitment. What is your average day like? How does one manage a sanctuary and the other locations where your animals live? What are the biggest challenges and rewards?
RLD: My average day starts at 5 a.m. All my tasks are sorted early so once I get to the Sanctuary I can stay there morning to night if they need me to. Our volunteers are a huge part of our family, the friendships I have gained are just amazing. The biggest reward, though, is seeing the donkeys come out of their shell, their personalities shine! Our biggest challenge is ensuring we can fund everything, as we are a Sanctuary and we rely on donations. We run lots of events to help fundraise, and every single penny goes directly to the animals upkeep and care.
EG: You’ve also endeavored to make visits to your locations into a respite from everyday life. You describe it as: “River Link Sanctuary is a place where you can leave your troubles at the gate and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature, all whilst visiting our beautiful animals.” Why do you think retreats like this are important? What unique perspective does visiting the sanctuary provide?
RLD: Being outdoors and getting back to nature is so important. Just taking a break from the hustle and bustle is so therapeutic. Not even just the animals but the trees, butterflies, and birds; it’s so good for our mental well-being. It just helps people relax and alleviates stress.
EG: In America, we are slowly making our way back to some form of normalcy. Please tell our readers what it has been like for you in England? How has the pandemic impacted the work you are doing?
RLD: We continued as best as we could and ensured we followed government guidelines. We are outside mostly (the donkeys do have shelters, though), so we managed to persevere, and when restrictions started to ease we got more volunteers. I think people just really appreciate being outside after the lockdowns.
EG: Please tell us about your Adopt a Donkey program and how we can get involved.
RLD: You can adopt a donkey for £25 a year. This goes towards feed, farrier, vet bills, etc. You can make a donation through our website www.riverlinkdonkeysandanimalsanctuary.co.uk.
EG: Is there anything else you would like to talk about or promote? What are your plans for the work you are doing?
RLD: We would love to buy are own acreage and give the donkeys a permanent home forever. We would also like to run educational days and get the local community involved with not only the donkeys and horses but with gardening, growing fruit and vegetables, so that we could take this to the food banks in the local area. We also regularly have children who are in foster or care homes come and spend time with us, so we would love to make that a regular theme where they can get outdoors and have a safe space.
Check back next month for another curated exploration of THE FEED!