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Donkey ridingA NEW donkey-riding centre just outside of Belfast will provide a free service to hundreds of children in Northern Ireland who have special needs and disabilities.

The Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys provides unique donkey-riding therapy and has five centres across the UK.

It has recently acquired land in Ballypalady near Templepatrick to build a sixth centre, which is planned to open in early 2011.

Work on the new centre, which will include an indoor riding arena and stables for between 15 and 20 donkeys, will start in May.

EST is looking to raise a further £480,000 towards building and equipping the centre.

To help fund the project, the charity has launched a ‘Buy a Brick’ scheme on its website and hopes this will inspire individuals and businesses throughout Northern Ireland to make a donation.

Dawn Vincent from the EST press office says: “We are incredibly excited about moving into Northern Ireland as children here have, so far, been unable to access our unique donkey-riding therapy.

“Donkey therapy can be life changing for many of the children who visit our centres.

“I often hear stories from my colleagues of how a child has spoken their first words on a donkey, or how a child has developed their strength through riding and managed to sit up unaided despite being severely disabled.

“Please support us now if you can by buying a brick for just £10 or donating any amount, no matter how small.

“This is a project that will make a difference to the children of Northern Ireland who have special needs and disabilities.”

For further information, visit www.elisabethsvendsentrust.org.uk