North Yorkshire animal rescuer Mary Chapman receives British Empire Medal in New Year Honours list

Mary Chapman rescued a host of animals including abandoned ponies, horses and guinea pigs back in 2002. Her act of kindness grew into a charity which has benefited thousands of children over the years.

Mary Chapman began rescuing animals in 2002

"I never imagined it would lead to the British Empire Medal," said former teacher Mrs Chapman, 67, who lives in Great Ouseburn in North Yorkshire.

"It isn't like work to me but I am very busy. It's so rewarding."

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She founded the Nuzzlets charity, a small voluntary group specialising in visits for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and life-threatening illnesses.

She welcomed her first visitors from Martin House Children’s Hospice to see the Shetland ponies, whose heads were just the right height to rest on the children’s laps.

In 2007 she turned Nuzzlets into a charity and became Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) accredited as a countryside classroom and care farm.

Nuzzlets has the support of Joules clothing which has resulted in the building of two new mobile and woodland classrooms. Many local schools visit, to learn about animal welfare, and two special needs schools visit weekly during term time to interact with and learn about the animals.

In 2016 and 2017 she organised and hosted just over 200 visits per year, enlisted help from volunteers to support over 4,000 young people to have access to animals.

She recruited a large number of volunteers who share her passion.

If children and young people cannot go to the farm, then she takes the animals to them. Nuzzlets usually visits Martin House weekly, providing children who are unable to visit the farm with a much needed distraction.

She visited Martin House four times in one week with her guinea pigs so one of the children staying there could find comfort during his last few days.

Many parents request that she, along with the animals, attend their children's funerals.

Nuzzlets also regularly visit The Retreat in York for patients with mental illnesses.

Many of the children love cuddling the kittens and Nuzzlets provides them an hour of escapism.

She visits special needs schools, nursing homes and inner-city nurseries with the animals, along with delivering talks about what Nuzzlets does, to children attending Beavers and other schools and colleges.