How helping hands harnessed hope

Some of the volunteers at the Mountains Animal Sanctuary.
Some of the volunteers at the Mountains Animal Sanctuary.

A pilot project held at the Mountains Animal Sanctuary in Glen Ogil has been hailed a resounding success.

The Kirriemuir and Forfar Community Mental Health Team organised a 12-week pilot project for their service users called ‘Helping Hands, Harnessing Hope’.

The project involved service users volunteering at the sanctuary.

The sanctuary is Scotland’s largest re-homing and adoption centre for horses, ponies and donkeys and depends on volunteers to help their full time employees.

Janine Parsons, community mental health nurse with NHS Tayside, said: “The aim of the project was to explore the therapeutic value of doing physical activity whilst caring for animals within a group setting.

“Physical activity is recognised as having a key role in improving and sustaining health and wellbeing and the sanctuary provided the perfect opportunity for the group to get active whilst indulging their love of animals.

“The volunteers mucked out and cleaned stables, filled hay nets and kept the fields clean. They also spent time with the donkeys and ponies, learning how to handle them, building their confidence around them, and grooming them. Feedback from the project has been so positive that we are planning a summer group. Some of the volunteers are continuing to help out at the sanctuary as they’ve enjoyed it so much.”

Volunteers reported forming positive relationships and that the volunteering role felt respected, valued and rewarding.

They also reported feeling satisfied after a day’s volunteering and had learned something about themselves or skills that could be used in their daily lives.

The sanctuary was very grateful for the contribution of the volunteers who they said had made a huge impact on the care of the animals.