Sandy Kokas-Magnusson has been around donkeys her entire life.
She first started caring for them as part of a family effort at the tender age of three-years-old.
“I was always cleaning stables and grooming donkeys,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.
Currently, 82 donkeys are in her care, spread across several properties nestled in the hills of Glen William in the Lower Hunter Valley, between Clarence Town and Dungog.
It’s home to the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary, which provides intensive care, refuge, and protection for orphaned, neglected and surrendered donkeys.
It started from humble beginnings, with Sandy’s mother Jo-Anne first rescuing a donkey in 1972 – a mission that drives Sandy to continue such care.
“It’s mum’s legacy and mum’s dream to have started all this, so I don’t want to see that fail in anyway, I want to continue on her legacy,” Sandy said.
The majority of donkeys that call the sanctuary home have health issues, which means caring for them doesn’t come cheap.
And, in a year where the sanctuary, which relies solely on public donations, has been impacted by drought, bushfires and COVID-19, money is tight.
“Donations have dwindled down terribly, we had a lot of people who donated weekly or monthly but they can’t now because they’ve lost their jobs with coronavirus,” Sandy said.
With the after effects of the drought, the sanctuary still can’t access straw anywhere in NSW, which means it’s being imported from South Australia at a cost of $7,000 per month.
The sanctuary’s collection tins have remained empty, with many shops closing due to the pandemic, and the sanctuary is closed to visitors who also supplemented income.
“It’s hard, we get by, but it’s hard,” Sandy said.
“We’d love to have a sponsor as we need a new horse float, a car, and to concrete the hay shed, which was damaged in the 2015 floods.
“We are always begging the government for grants.”
The donkey ICU has also run out of medical supplies and, with a wet winter predicted, they’re needed now more than ever.
“The last lot of rain we had, I ended up with 10 with foot abscesses, so that’s a big burden,” Sandy said.
Despite being a labor of love for Sandy and her husband Barry, a handful of volunteers also help keep the sanctuary running.
One of them, Laura Norley, has been lending her time for the past four months.
“I have known the family my whole life so I have been interested in volunteering since I was young,” Laura said.
“I like the animals, I never thought too much of them because I’m a horse person, but being with them every day they’re just beautiful.”
The sanctuary is always looking for more volunteers, particularly with equine experience.
“They’re different to horses, they’re more like a dog you can ride,” Sandy added.
“We go out into the paddock and they will follow you everywhere, they are characters.
“I always say to everybody: ‘If we are going to be working in a particular yard, let’s move all the donkeys out’ because they will be climbing in wheelbarrows [or] they’ll grab a bucket and run off.”
Click here if you’d like to donate to the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary.