As we walked the land at Pen-Y-Bryn Farm, Paul and Terry Nichols talked about the peaceful benefits of every square inch of the land. They spoke of the benefits and challenges visiting riders experienced as they covered miles and miles of beautiful landscape.
Soon they will welcome 10 veterans from across Canada in the pilot program Equine Assisted Mindfulness (EAMP), May 22 – June 3. Having completed their Communities for Veterans/Ride Across Canada its became abundantly clear how instrumental horses can be in assisting veterans to deal with their post traumatic stress disorder and their transition into civilian life.
While at the farm, the veterans will work closely with horses, as well as immersing themselves in farm activities and many transitioning activities. On hand as well will be a researcher/psychologist who will be here evaluating the program. Her funding is through True Patriot Love Foundation.
Although funding is not confirmed for the pilot program, Terry and Paul are going ahead and know they can make this program work.
“The ride across Canada was a leap of faith for us and we believed we could make a difference and we did,” Terry said.
“And we want to continue to help now that we know the need and the importance to an even greater level. So we are again taking another leap of faith to say that we need to continue to support our veterans.”
In preparations for the arrival of the first group of veterans, Paul is taking the lead on building a new outdoor arena. Pen-y-Bryn Farm has operated the CHAAPS program for several years and in order to prevent interruption of this valued program, the farm requires a second outdoor arena for the EAMP.
Thanks to the provincial government’s $15,000 grant, Paul is able to get started on the outdoor arena.
MLA Coralee Oaks supported Paul and Terry in assisting them to establish their Communities for Veteran’s Foundation in its initial stages including introductions to key supporters in Victoria. MLA Oakes kept in touch with Paul and Terry throughout their cross-country journey. Recently, she helped secure funding to partially support the building of the new riding arena.
“We need to be forward thinking in addressing mental health issues within our communities,” Oakes said.
“This funding to support the building of an outdoor arena for an equine assisted mindfulness program to help our veterans is an important initiative supported by government.”
Future plans including running more Equine Assisted Mindfulness programs and expanding to include families and first responders. Terry and Paul would like to expand their program to other provinces and create a centre of Excellence where they can run programs and continue research for veteran/first responder wellness.
“We will also continue our community engagement work,” Paul said.
“It is essential that communities have the education and awareness that is required for them to be the support system that is needed for our veterans to transition successfully. Communities really do make a difference.”
Paul and Terry are still looking for community support for their pilot program. Michelle Koning has come forward to offer her services to organize all the meals for veterans and support people for the entire pilot project however, she will need help in the kitchen and to also help supplying meals and snacks during the program. If you can help call her at 250-747-0444 or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posts for the arena are being put in on May 7 along with excavator work and a work bee is planned for May 8 when the boards are put up and stained, gates need to be hung and the arena made completely functional.
One of the key components of this program is fundraising to help pay transportation costs for the veterans that are coming to the program as well as costs for food and other expenses. Anyone with good fundraising ideas are encourage to contact Paul and Terry. They are also available for presentations about the foundation to businesses that are interested in supporting this cause.
“This has been an incredible journey for us,” Terry said.
We are thankful that we are from such a generous and supportive community. Together we can make a difference.”