Gary Johnston, Senior Riding Instructor, at our Belfast donkey assisted therapy centre recently visited the centre's twinned partner in Romania. The purpose of his visit was to train staff on donkey assisted therapy and deliver riding therapy sessions.
In Romania they have just started a new therapy project in an orphanage in Bradet, Transylvania. The Centrul De Reabilitare Scolara have recently fostered two donkeys and they plan to start riding therapy for the children at the orphanage.
Judy Welsman, European Administration, was there to welcome Gary, along with the centre’s enthusiastic staff. He trained the staff on aspects of donkey care including preparing a donkey for riding, grooming and fitting tack, training the donkey and also how to plan and prepare a therapy session.
The orphanage is home to 98 children and adults ranging from 7 years to 28 years old. The children have a wide range of needs including behavioural difficulties, learning disability and Autism.
During Gary's visit he worked with a number of children and one in particular, Alex, really enjoyed the riding therapy. As soon as Gary brought Alex (aged 10) over to the donkey his face lit up with joy. The staff were amazed as Alex doesn’t participate in many activities. Without any problems Gary was able to fit Alex with a riding hat and as soon as he was on the donkey he immediately had a huge smile on his face and giggled the whole way round on the donkey. Alex also has sensory issues and the staff were in awe of him touching the donkey during his ride.
Gary's trip to Romania was a great opportunity to learn about the work carried out. Both Gary and his colleagues at Belfast are looking forward to seeing the projects in Romania continue to develop and to continue the partnership with the teams there.