A Gwynedd charity which has harnessed the healing power of animals to help people suffering with their mental health is joining funded projects and charities throughout the UK to highlight the amazing stories of animals coming together with humans to make their lives better.

Monday was World Animal Day (October 4th), an annual event which aims to raise the status of animals around the world. In homage to our friends from the animal kingdom that make the world a better place, on World Animal Day 2021, 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.

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.

One of the organisations putting their best hoof forward thanks to the National Lottery’ support is the Abbey Road Mental Health Resource and Drop in centre in Bangor, North Wales.

In September 2020, the Abbey Road Centre in Gwynedd was awarded over £9,000 towards their Eryri Awyr Iach project – ‘Snowdonia Fresh Air’ project – in partnership with Snowdonia Donkeys. 

As part of their response to the coronavirus pandemic, Abbey Road Centre worked with Snowdonia Donkeys for a Covid safe partnership, allowing participants to visit donkeys in Moelyci and use the outdoor green space. The project has enabled the charity to help people suffering with their mental health by decreasing isolation and showing the value animals can have in helping people’s mental wellbeing.  

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. 

“But getting outside can be difficult and although we live in rural north west Wales, Bangor is a city and it's not immediately possible to access a big green space.  

“A project like this allows people to have experience with the outdoors and with animals in a supported way.  

“The project is completely and utterly funded by the National Lottery so we just simply wouldn't have been able to run it without them.  

“Our income streams have suffered throughout the pandemic so it wouldn't have been able to be created or run without it – the National Lottery has been essential and helped us support so many people.” 

More than £30 million goes to good causes from The National Lottery across the country every week, making vital projects like these possible.

Since its beginnings as a charity in 1985, Abbey Road Centre has helped hundreds of people with their mental health.  

Now with more people applying to be part of the project due to the strain the pandemic has had on people’s mental health, the funding from The National Lottery has proved vital. 

Fiona added: “I think animals are incredibly important to help people with their mental health - especially in the absence of human contact as we've seen in the pandemic.  

“It's company, mutual affection, having a sense of purpose and routine, being responsible for another life - it's amazing and transformational for people to be around animals. 

“We were able to run the project weekly throughout parts of the lockdown.  

“It costs to work with animals and take the minibus four miles down the road to the donkey farm, but it’s all worth it when you see people’s faces.  

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.”

To find out more about how The National Lottery supports good causes throughout the UK, visit www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk