I was very privileged to accompany our Special Olympics athletes on their trip to Wellington and West Palm Beach. It was amazing to see how quickly they adapted to American customs which are often very different to the customs in Haiti.
Darline, the group’s Ambassador, was a true leader in every sense of the word. When the others were nervous before flying, she had them smiling and was telling them about all of the amazing things they would see and the yummy new food they would taste.
Verlanta sang and smiled throughout the trip. At every opportunity she danced! Max’s* big smile broke hearts and he prayed that we would have a safe trip during every trip we made.
Philemon* was like a true big brother to Max, helping him along, carrying his backpack and giving him little hints. Ketia was truly amazed by everything and everyone. She loved meeting and chatting to all the Haitians we met on the trip. She wanted to learn everything about their lives in the U.S.
We are very fortunate to be able to train and ride the horses from Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Centre each year. The Haitian trainers who came along also get the benefit of receiving specialized training from the team in Vinceremos and we then see their skills improve on return.
Our athletes proudly represented Haiti, all coming home with ribbons and setting inspirational goals for all of our younger riders at Kay St. Helene and Kay St. Germaine Special Needs Programs. A great big debt of gratitude is owed to the entire team at Kay Christine and Kay St. Germaine for all of the training and preparation which goes into every trip. While a big thank you should also go to the trainers and carers who accompanied the athletes on the trip, without whom it would not have been possible.
Contributed by Jacinta McGuane
These trips are an extension of the rehabilitation program which sees an average of 30 children from Kay Germaine and they receive equine therapy every week. The program also caters for 25-30 children from St. Helene Orphanage in Kenscoff. Over the period of a year, this results in a total of 122 students receiving some form of equine therapy at Chateu-Blond stables in Tabarre, Haiti.
Equine therapy improves balance and assists in the strengthening of the child’s core, the improvement of motor skills and increased respiratory control. For those who have more severe conditions and are confined to a wheelchair, touching and being near horses can have positive effects. With these children, studies have shown that equine therapy improves sensory integration and the understanding of visual cues.
*Alias names used to protect privacy of minors.