FURRY and feathered friends across Wales are lending a paw or a wing to help people most in need and today we celebrate the amazing stories of animals coming together with humans to make their lives better.

In homage to our friends from the animal kingdom that make the world a better place, on World Animal Day – today. The National Lottery is highlighting the wonderful stories of how animals through some of its funded projects and charities throughout the UK are putting their best paw forward to help people in need across the country.

World Animal Day is an annual event which aims to raise the status of animals around the world. National Lottery funding goes towards a wide range of animal related projects – from city and community farms; funding the training of rescue dogs that help emergency services during natural disasters; projects that support people with disabilities and behavioural issues; and projects that provide animal assisted therapy – to support people and improve their wellbeing.

Over the last five years alone, The National Lottery Community Fund has awarded more than £17 million to around almost 200 animal-related projects across the UK which support people most in need.

Among the charities working with animals to improve people’s lives in Wales is Cariad Pet Therapy, a Pembrokeshire-based Community Interest Company set up in 2018 to provide pet therapy visits in a range of settings, from schools and hospitals to workplaces and care homes.

Cariad Pet Therapy

Cariad (the word for ‘love’ in Welsh) have 44 pet owners and therapy dogs on their books, working with some of society’s most vulnerable and isolated people. All volunteers are trained to be ‘dog fluent’ and have a high degree of empathy for the animals and the people they visit. All dogs are required to be happy to meeting new people.

They provide visits throughout West and South Wales and received a grant of £9,480 in January 2020 to extend their visits to people deemed to be socially isolated in the community who can no longer look after a dog themselves. The project called ‘Dogs on your Doorstep’ was inspired by the sad figure that 75% of women and two-thirds of men in Wales over-65 live alone.

Co-founder Christine Thomas told us…..

“The dogs go in, they help people to experience the love of a dog again, the visits help people to engage and to have companionship, this can encourage recuperation and recovering and prevent loneliness. The demand for this service coming out of lockdown has increased.

“Owning a dog or being in the company of a dog helps to lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress levels, increases the feel good hormones and helps you feel happier – a real mood booster.

“Without The National Lottery support we wouldn’t be where we are now. It has given us the stability and confidence to promote the ideas that we had and allowed us to reach out to so many people. It’s invaluable the support they have given us.”

Another charity in Wales to receive funding is Abbey Road Centre in Gwynedd, who received £9,000 from The National Lottery Community Fund towards their Eryri Awyr Iach project – ‘Snowdonia Fresh Air’ project – in partnership with Snowdonia Donkeys. 

Fiona Owens, Abbey Road Centre’s Chief Officer, said…….

“We wanted to be able to support people outdoors, especially after Covid as more people could gather outside safely.

“There’s lots of evidence to support that having regular contact with animals is good for your wellbeing – being outdoors and being in green spaces is very good for your mental health.”

Back in South Wales, Swansea Community Farm (the only city farm in Wales), received nearly £250,000 last year to run the four-year Calon Farm for All Project, which helps people with mental health problems using animals.

Through National Lottery support, the farm has been developed and nurtured for over 20 years, with animals such as donkeys, goats, sheep, pigs, ducks, geese, and chickens arriving in 2007 for volunteers to help look after, whilst also improving their own mental wellbeing. 

Katherine Aylett, who helps oversee the Calon Farm for All Project as a wellbeing worker told us…..

“The animals make a massive difference because there’s a non-judgemental side to animals that people really appreciate.

“It gives people the opportunity to care for something else as well – if you’re living through a difficult phase in life, it’s nice to be able to give and it makes you feel different.

“The money from The National Lottery has been incredible for us to help people. It was massive, massive news when we got the funding from the National Lottery.”

Swansea Community Farm

It has long been known that animals serve as a source of comfort and support for people and for many – nothing compares to the joy of coming home to a loyal companion. But it’s not just love and companionship in our daily lives they offer as David Knott, Interim CEO at The National Lottery Community Fund, explains…….

 “Thanks to National Lottery players, these projects and the incredible animals they work with are changing people’s lives,” he says.

“Whether helping to improve mental health, reduce loneliness or providing a physical support, they are boosting people’s wellbeing and confidence so that they can better prosper and thrive.”

More than £30 million goes to good causes from The National Lottery across the country every week, making vital projects like these possible. To find out more about how The National Lottery supports good causes throughout the UK, visit HERE

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