I have the great privilege of co-facilitating a seven week summer session of Farming For Resilience for 12 students from Ashuelot Valley Academy. To say that this program is impactful is an understatement. Now 3 weeks in, I have seen faces change, hurt, anger, saddness and pain seep away as students groom horses, lean in to the lessons of courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion and leave with a good dose of resilience.
Each week we gather as a group of volunteers before the session to review the lesson plan, and after to "debrief". The program clearly is making waves. The volunteers, all ages, are also leaning in to the lessons of courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion. When I listened to last weeks feedback from their experience of the session, I saw the ripple effect of choosing love. (Thank you Scarlett Lewis!) I asked those volunteers who were willing and able to write down a short paragraph summing up their experiences. I believe you will hear the strength of the program in their words. Sue P. a devoted and regular volunteer, also a Board member of Cooper's Crossroad wrote : "After only our third Farming For Resilience session with the kids from Ashuelot Valley Academy, the change in the demeanor of the kids is amazing. They now bound into the barn and run to their favorite horses (or dog or sheep) and confidently pet, feed, brush or just hang out. They are never pushed to achieve any specific goals with these animals, but EACH and every one of them is now confident and courageous enough to groom, tack up, and get on a horse. Their smiles, giggles, and shouts of affirmation are infectious. We, as the horse handler volunteers, are so grateful to them for such a rewarding experience--for us!!" Sophie E. a junior volunteer who just started with us wrote : "I started volunteering in the second session of Farming For Resilience, also known as (FFR), and have been volunteering since. This past Wednesday we had the third session, all the students participated in getting on a horse for the first time and they were all very excited. When I started I got to help a young boy with our miniature pony Velvet. I started on the second session so he had already met Velvet. But he was very happy to see him again, seeing that it just warmed my heart and then I just fell in love with volunteering for FFR. In FFR I get to assist the student with grooming, tacking up, handling and riding thier horse. The student I worked with seemed to engage and enjoy interacting with all the horses. For me volunteering for FFR allows me to meet new people while sharing my love of horses. It is an amazing experience and I hope that other people will get to see and feel the difference it makes in our community." I am looking foward with a smile and gratitude to the next session. We will be focusing again on gratitude and the lessons horses can give us about ourselves! Enjoy these long days of summer. With gratitude, Christina