Over 6 years ago, three community members spoke with a local vendor of day rehab services for adults with disabilities and discussed the possibility of some of their clients coming to Chakola’s Place in Goshen, NH to learn some aspects of farming. Day rehab services refers to an approximately 30 hour a week community experience with each participant working toward a yearly goal; for most it is paid employment. We came to the agreement that 4 clients with an interest in animals, farming and farm maintenance would come to the farm.
Those clients who were interested in animals started with the donkeys and lots of questions. We started with the basics: an explanation of a halter; how the buckle works, and how it fits on the equines head. From there we worked on proper leading skills. We also explained and discussed appropriate behavior around the animals and on the farm.
Through a combination of demonstration and verbal prompts, our group learned the proper procedures and can now go to the tack room, get a halter, safely enter a field with 5 to 6 donkeys, approach an individual donkey, put on a halter and lead it out of the field.
Our participants learned to use the proper brushes and to work safely around the donkeys. As soon as walking to and from the field was mastered, our group was able to lead the donkeys around the field or down the driveway which is about 1,000 feet long to collect the mail.To increase self-confidence and handling skills, we set up practice obstacle courses like those encountered at Donkey Shows and our group learned to work the donkeys through the course.
Our handlers learned how to bathe and groom the donkeys before a competition.
A few individuals started to learn the basics of driving; walking behind the donkey with long reins (without the cart at this point). In addition, these individuals learned the routines involved with stable upkeep such as sweeping, mucking stalls, etc. At each step along the way and with each new learned skill individual self-confidence increased.
These men and women applied their donkey knowledge to the horses at Chakola’s Place. Three Cleveland Bay mares, a breed known for their sane and sensible natures, are additional equines for the group to work with.
We bring the horses out of the field and either hold them or put them on the cross ties in the barn. The group is able to brush and safely work around the larger horses.
In the horticultural aspect of our program, the group dug up and prepared a garden plot, they removed sod from the garden area and replanted the sod elsewhere.
They moved composted manure to fertilize the soil, transplanted vegetable plants that had been started from seed. They fenced off the garden from critters. With our guidance, the garden was watered, weeded and trellises were made as needed. Our clients learned how to see when vegetables were ready to pick and how to pick. They showed an interest in learning and talking about how to cook what they grew. They shared each week what they had done with the vegetables taken home the previous week.
During the trial year of this program, we witnessed confidence levels rise with each new skill learned; skills which include following directions, completing the task as required and learning the names of various tools used on a farm. All of these skills would easily transfer to a job elsewhere.
We had an individual come that was initially non-verbal. It turns out he grew up on a farm and this farm connection opened the gates. Not only is he talking about all sorts of things, but he is a very handy and hardworking individual. Another individual who has been hesitant to get his hands dirty spent a good part of one Friday shoveling wet bedding out of a stall and his comment was “This is so much better than K-Mart!”
As we enter our 6th year, we have seen sullen clients warm up to the donkeys and temperaments change for the positive. Clients are beginning to show up properly dressed for the weather and always ready for the daily task at hand. During the coldest part of the winter months snap, we have had participants elect to come to the farm for our Friday program.
Road To Independence received its 501(c)3 status from the IRS in June 2011 and is now entering the 5th year of our formal program. We are an all volunteer organization. We are very fortunate to have a great deal of community support. We have received grants from the Newport Service Organization, the Sullivan County Commissioners, the Sullivan County United Way, the NH Council for Disabilities, and Claremont Saving Bank for the vocational training program currently ongoing at Chakola’s Place in Goshen and the Newport Farmers Market.
ROAD TO INDEPENDENCE
121 program sessions
378 hours of program sessions
1,081 hours of direct services.
160 program sessions
1,393 hours of direct services
189 program sessions
1323 hours of direct service
219 program sessions
463 hours of program
1,142 hours of direct service
IN 2015 –
Our farm program ran Wed and Friday mornings and Friday afternoons at the Newport Farmers Market from May thru Oct.
The Seasons at Summercrest Memory Care -12 times
Woodlawn Care Center – 9 times
Valley Regional’s Day Out Program – 6 times
Full Circle Farm twice
Participated in 3 parades, ran 2 concession booths – DWTS & a FCF
Put on a demonstration at Full Circle Farm
Visited 4 childcare programs
Shown at Save Your Ass Show
Started a school partnership with Sunapee School
Provided barn help to a fellow non-profit, Dancing Hill Farm, when owner was hurt.
Participated in Wellness Clinic in Hanover NH and Chamber Day in Newport, NH.
We are currently receiving our operating budget from generous grants from the Newport Service Organization and the Sullivan County United Way. We contribute to our operating budget with proceeds from Newport Farmer’s Market booth and the Concession stands we run. We also rely on donations. RTI relies solely on volunteers.
IN 2016 –
– Continued Wednesday & Friday Program and expanded to sessions approximately 4 days a week during the summer and fall
– Continued Donkey visits to:
Summercrest – 12 visits
Woodlawn – 12 visits
Sunapee Cove – 2 visits
Harvest Hill in Lebanon – 1 visit
Lake Sunapee Adult Day Out Program 7 visits
– Continued Newport Farmers Market Booth from May – October and incorporated local differently abled artists into our Market Booth
– Continued Sunapee School Partnership – students came for farm programs 21 times
– Start School Program at Kearsarge High School on Mondays in Oct – 6 programs session @ KRHS. In discussion with Kearsarge Middle School
– Started a program with NFI program in Bradford – 2 visits to Farm
Participants attend farm from West Central Behavioral Services – 5 visits
At Risk Children’s Summer program June , July , August
Participated in 3 area parades
Newport Winter Carnival Parade – won 1st place & $300.00
Bradford 4th of July Parade
31st Annual Wassail Parade in Woodstock VT with 7 donkeys and 25 walkers all in themed
– Demonstration at Therapeutic Equine Program in Keene
– Newport Chamber Day – June 18th
– Oct – Donkey Show in Alstead with 5 participants
– Volunteer run Craft Booth at Donkey Show
– Teamed up with Lorna Young, Director of Therapeutic Riding at Full Circle Farm regarding recruiting volunteers and discussing our programs with area schools and businesses
Ad in National Equine Magazine – Chronicle of the Horse
Front Page article in The Vermont Standard on 12/8/16
We continue our programs with the grants from the Sullivan County United Way, the Newport Service Organization, private donations and the money we earn at the Newport Farmer’s Market and various fundraisers. There are no fees to individuals for our programs.