A place of strength

2019-01-29 06:00
Bonding with a horse at Tom Ro Haven.

Bonding with a horse at Tom Ro Haven.

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Tom Ro Haven for Equines and Children has become a home of hope and comfort as well as a place to regain strength for vulnerable children and horses.

The haven in Cape Point was started in 2012 by Gillian and Stephanie McCulloch, who at that stage conducted volunteer work and saw the need for a safe haven for the horses.

Tom Ro Haven is a registered NPO and rescues abused, neglected and unwanted horses, which they use in various programmes to help adults and children. “When we started the Haven we made the decision to do the programmes, because at that stage there was no NPO that was using rescued horses for healing. When we were volunteering they healed me and my mom (Gillian) as we have had so many hardships and losses in the family and the horses we were helping saved us,” says Stephanie.

The Haven was named after her grandfather and grandmother as they had loved children and animals.

“Horses have huge healing abilities and we have felt it. We’ve got first-hand experience with the programmes we have, and it really is just a heart-warming sight to watch the breakthroughs we have had. It can happen when they first come or a couple of weeks later but it does happen,” she says.

They have people coming from Khayelitsha, Woodstock, Ocean View, Muizenberg and around the False Bay Area.

The Haven runs programmes for underprivileged children, victims of human trafficking, adults with mental disabilities, abused women and children and children with learning and behavioural problems among others. “These are the programmes we are running at the moment but our doors are open to those in need. Children from various organisations and places of safety attend the educational enrichment programmes. Throughout the year the children are taught in various modules which include general animal management and care, conservation, life skills, horse-riding fundamentals and advanced riding.

“We have slowly started introducing equine-assisted therapy into our portfolio over the last few years. This treatment includes equine activities or an equine environment to promote emotional growth in people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, behavioural issues, abuse issues, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as drug and alcohol addiction. Since the horses have similar behaviours to humans, such as social and responsive behaviours, it is easy for the participants to create a connection with the horse. The bond between a human and the horse cannot be put into words and the healing power is amazing,” says Stephanie.

Although the journey has been a challenging one, especially financially, Stephanie says they are blessed to be doing what they are doing. “Although most days are tough it makes it all worth it when we are helping these children and adults. There have been so many breakthroughs that we have had and it is just the most amazing experience to watch the horses interact with the victims of human trafficking, the children and the adults. The journey has had its ups and downs; finances have always been tough as we rely 90% on public support. However, over the years, it’s gotten easier as more people are made aware of what we are doing. We still only receive on average about R2000 to R3500 a month. We have had once-off donations that have really helped us, but there is always uncertainty each month as we do not have a lot of regular support and are working hard to change this. We have been so blessed with these horses we have got, and helping all the adults and children has been to remarkable and heart-warming,” explains Stephanie.

With most of the committee members having jobs, Stephanie with her mother have to do most of the work. “I work and so do the other members of the committee, so we all trying to chip in where we can. Me and my mom run the farm, the programmes, the social media, etc. We do not have money to hire a groom so we get up at 04:30 every day and head to the farm to feed, groom, do maintenance on the paddocks if it is needed.
“We have to carry an average of six to eight wheelbarrows of food, then we leave to go to work and run the paperwork side of the Haven, then back in the afternoon for feeding – this would be a normal day during the week, then the weekends we are there all day. We are positive it will get better for us and that when more people are aware of what we are doing, they will help. We will always fight and do what’s best for these animals and try to rescue more and help as many more children and adults that we can,” concludes Stephanie.

To help Tom Ro Haven or to volunteer, call their office on 066 061 0480 or WhatsApp on 060 685 7010.

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