Volunteer Joyce has crocheted hundreds of dolls for the donkey sanctuary Bonaire

The dolls that Joyce Bos makes for sale at the donkey sanctuary are colourful, soft, and safe for babies. Photo: Marina Melis

KRALENDIJK – Those who visit the donkey sanctuary in Bonaire can buy some nice and unique souvenirs, that not only serve as a memento of the Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire but also contribute to financing the shelter.

One item stands out: A board full of brightly colored and cheerful-looking donkey dolls. Curious about the story behind the colored donkeys, ABC Online Media went in search of the person responsible for their creation.

This turns out to be volunteer Joyce Bos. Bos has been coming to the island from The Hague for seven years and has also been active at the donkey sanctuary for seven years, the brainchild of the unofficial ‘donkey mother’ of the island, Marina Melis.

“When I first visited Bonaire and also to the Donkey Sanctuary seven years ago, I was immediately impressed. Back in the Netherlands, I thought about what I could do for the donkeys. Then I came up with the idea to crochet donkeys, which I could sell and donate the proceeds to the donkeys”.

Reflecting on how it all started, Bos laughs. “You have to know that I had never crocheted in my life. I didn’t even know how to do it at all. But one day I just started and bought a pattern with which I crocheted my first donkey.” According to Bos, the first donkeys didn’t really look like the donkeys she makes today. But gradually she became more skilled.

“It’s still true that no two donkeys are exactly alike. One has slightly longer arms, and the other has slightly longer legs.” Over the years, Joyce has crocheted hundreds of donkeys. During her annual visit to Bonaire, she brings almost a whole suitcase full of donkey dolls. “About 15 fit in a suitcase,” explains Bos. Other people in her circle of acquaintances are also asked to take a batch with them when they go on vacation to Bonaire. “For Marina”.


In addition to the donkey sanctuary, the dolls can also be ordered directly from Joyce. “But all proceeds always go to the donkeys,” says Joyce, who pays for the necessary materials out of her own pocket. The dolls are very popular among tourists. Joyce also sometimes receives photos from people who have bought a doll at the donkey sanctuary and have it at home after the holiday, for example, in the baby’s room.

If Bos works steadily, she can make a new doll in about 4 days. “When I used to work for the ambulance service, it was a great distraction from work. Especially with all the hardships you encounter in a day, it’s wonderful to also be busy with something beautiful and positive in between,” says Bos.

The dolls are also safe for small children and babies. “They have so-called child-safe doll eyes; children can’t pull them out and swallow them.”

Occasionally, Joyce also receives special requests. “I was recently approached by someone who wanted a doll in the colors of her company. It will be the organization’s mascot, in the colors of the logo.

Bos is not done crocheting yet. The dolls are in high demand. But the volunteer does more for the Donkey Sanctuary. “When I’m here on the island, I go to help at the shelter in the mornings. I love that work.”


‘Donkey mother’ Marina with a newborn foal. Photo: Donkey Sanctuary Bonaire.

Anyone who wants to get one of Joyce Bos’s special dolls can visit the Donkey Sanctuary shop at Kaya Ir Randolp Statius van Eps, just behind the airport. There, about 375 donkeys are currently being taken care of.

A visit to the Donkey Sanctuary is always worthwhile, even for those who have been there before. The shelter is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm for visitors. Entrance is possible until 4:00 pm. Driving around is allowed by car, golf cart, scooter, or bicycle. Walking around is also possible. Quads are not allowed in the park.

The entrance fee is US$ 9 for adults. Children up to 12 years old pay only US$ 4.50. More information:

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