Hi everyone, and thank you for visiting our gofundme page! I am so excited to tell you all about this new adventure we are beginning.
I recently began volunteering with the amazing staff and horses at Equine Tranquility Wellness Center, Inc. in Andover, New Jersey. This organization is 90% volunteer based and takes in rescue or unwanted horses to rehabilitate and retrain for its programs. The staff and volunteers here offer equine therapy riding lessons, camps, and trail rides to all ages and a variety of therapeutic populations. The therapeutic benefits of working with horses are undeniable, and I wanted to find a way to share that opportunity with local foster youth. I hold a Master's Degree in Child Advocacy and Policy and a Bachelor's Degree in Family and Child studies, so this is a community that I have always been passionate about working with.
Unfortunately, many foster children have unstable home lives or foster parents who cannot afford to send them to camp. Our goal is to offer a week-long day camp at no cost to the foster families, where these children can come together to enjoy the benefits of equine therapy and horseback riding alongside typical camp activities such as sports, games, arts and crafts and water activities.
Foster youth are a disadvantaged population at risk for many adverse experiences throughout their life, including homelessness, drug addiction, incarceration, teen pregnancy and poverty. Without significant therapeutic intervention, the cycle of trauma is often perpetuated, which affects the community as a whole.
Equine facilitated activities promote the development of important life skills which many individuals with early childhood trauma struggle with, such as self-worth, confidence, responsibility, self regulation, emotional awareness, healthy relationships, and independence. Equine assisted learning activities are catered to the campers' needs and focus on building upon these skills.
Campers participating in our program can expect to:
-Take responsibility for the safety and well-being of the horses they are working with
- Acquire new and unique skills required to care for and ride a horse, which fosters a positive sense of self-worth, pride, and self confidence
- Gain a greater sense of emotional regulation and control. Children must learn to control their emotions, energy levels and actions in order to gain the horses' trust, as the horses will mirror their behavior. Campers will need to recognize the difference between aggression and assertiveness and adopt a positive and calm energy in order to gain their horse's trust and cooperation.
- Build trust, connection, leadership and teamwork skills while overcoming fears in a safe and non-punitive environment
- Learn to utilize problem solving abilities, a positive work ethic and constructive communication with peers in order to work together towards a common goal
Equine assisted activities also provide an alternative to traditional therapy, which many foster youth have already gone through for years. Mental health is a sensitive topic and children often feel there is a stigma attached to being in therapy. In our program, they are instead given the opportunity to go to summer camp like typical kids and look forward to coming each day. Horse camp is something they can be proud to participate in and share with peers, rather than feeling ashamed for being 'different'. Our goal is to provide campers with a fun and safe environment where they can just be kids, while simultaneously reaping the therapeutic benefits of equine assisted activities.
Sponsoring a single child for one week requires approximately $425 to cover the needs of the horses, insurance, camp supplies, and employees. In order to offer this camp to foster families for free, we will need to raise at least $5,000 to run one week of camp. I know this is no small feat, but I am confident that together, we can make it happen.
Working with horses and the foster care community has been my life dream, and I am eternally grateful to Colleen O'Dea, owner of ETWC, and all who support my mission by donating, volunteering, or offering advice to help me reach my goal.
Thank you all so much for your support,
- Hannah Murphy
- Stephanie Mackey
- Deborah Gordon
- Miriam Reimer
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