Connecting Nature and Youth: Walking with Donkeys in Reggio Emilia

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Asino per asineria di Reggio Emilia

In the heart of Reggio Emilia, Italy, a unique initiative has blossomed,
intertwining the beauty of nature with the lively spirit of children and teenagers.
This initiative, managed by passionate individuals, focuses on what many may know as trekking but is affectionately referred to as “walking” in this context.
The primary target audience for this endeavor is the younger generation, with a year-round commitment to maintaining and nurturing walking paths.

The team oversees a park at the city’s outskirts, fostering a captivating interaction between the community and their delightful companions – the donkeys.
“At the center of a much larger project that involves the whole city,” as explained by the visionary behind this initiative, weekends see families exploring the park, trying the art of walking, while weekdays witness the
engagement of local schools in environmental education.

The park serves as an outdoor classroom, educating the youth about nature, the territory, and the
world around them through the simple act of walking.
Summer brings a different charm as the team organizes general summer camps lasting eight days. Participants, guided by the company of donkeys, embark on
a journey, carrying tents, kitchen equipment, and the spirit of adventure. It’s a week spent outdoors, away from the routine, fostering a connection with the environment.

Beyond the enclosures and maneges, the focus is on the vast outdoor spaces.
The emphasis is on wandering, exploring, and discovering the natural world through walks. The visionaries behind this initiative aim to extend their impact
by involving the youth in caring for the guides, the animals’ breeders, and eventually replacing the aging line of donkeys.

“We are working on a project that we like a lot, which is to take the girls who come to walk with us to feed the guides, the animals’ breeders and to replace the old line 28,” shares the passionate leader. The aspiration is to empower the younger generation, providing them with opportunities to engage in the “Green Economy” – contributing meaningfully to environmental activities.
As part of their ongoing efforts, the team has already trained several young individuals, with more volunteers expressing interest. Plans include conducting
environmental guide courses for animal producers, fostering a deeper connection between the youth and the environment they navigate.

The donkeys, integral to this endeavor, possess unique characteristics that set them apart. Regular interaction with children, especially those from elementary and primary schools, has made them exceptionally accustomed to human relationships.

Even in public settings, they seek affection, embodying a profound connection developed through their intimate interactions with people.
Noteworthy is the resilience instilled in these donkeys through exposure to the unpredictability of nature. Whether it’s sudden noises, branches falling, or
encounters with wild animals, the donkeys exhibit a calm and composed demeanor, a testament to their exceptional training.

In conclusion, the initiative in Reggio Emilia stands as a beacon of inspiration,
blending the simplicity of walking with the profound impact it can have on the youth and the environment. It’s a testament to the transformative power of nature and the valuable lessons that can be learned through the gentle
companionship of donkeys. Thank you to those dedicated to fostering this unique connection between nature and the next generation.

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