Thursday, 23 June 2011

Growing Together... Where Miracles Happen

For the last couple of weeks before I left Amman, and certainly since my return to the UK, people have been asking me,

“WHAT is it that you do DO?”

And in my attempt to answer that question I started thinking…..
Nine months ago, like a child, the thought of Growing Together emerged quietly into reality from the depths of dreams and half-formed ideas…Thanks to the Princess Alia Foundation, those feelings and beliefs were given the opportunity to take form and become real, bringing together hope and actuality into a programme of equine therapy for children with specialised needs.

In those nine months, we have had many stories of positive behavioural change, much anecdotal evidence of happier children, amazed teachers and thrilled parents, and day to day experience with children who are interacting and communicating more with the world around them.
There is the fifteen year old boy who no longer sits all day inside four walls afraid to leave his room, the boy who talks to his mother in sentences instead of sounds, the girl who summons what little upper-body muscle tone she has to hold herself upright independently on her horse, the boy who is wheel-chair bound and was able to be placed on a horse and rode, and the boy who spoke his first word ever when he pointed and said, “WOLF!!”

We have other stories too of course, stories of constant frustration with parents who refuse to share their children’s successes because of the social taboo in having an autistic child…stories of teachers who refuse to be pro-active with their students because it’s easier to sit doing nothing than to engage…stories of sponsors who moved the goal-posts and left us shaken….. Shaken, but not stirred… Growing Together will continue to function regardless of the vagaries of sponsors for at least another year.

During these past months, several professionals in the fields of psychology have approached Growing Together with the intention of committing the work to paper for academic review, but as I have told them, how can you measure a qualitative change in quantitative terms? There is no way we can record the changes to the children in a scientific manner because we do not have a control group, and the variables are infinite…But regardless of this obstacle, we have still had graduates observing the programme and commenting upon the positive changes they have observed in children’s behaviour. Their findings will be written up later this year.
For me personally, Growing Together has been a huge blessing and gift from the Universe. It has allowed me to work daily with animals I love, admire and respect, and to share those feelings with children and people that might otherwise never encounter the true gentleness of spirit that resides within every equine…The healing Power of horses has been recognised for centuries among many peoples, and it is truly an honour to be able to introduce the concept of equine therapy through Growing Together.

I have also been blessed with the help and assistance of many exceptional individuals, among them Lt. Col. Faisal Sherif, the Director of the Royal Stables, and his staff. Ghalia Norredin, the ever solid and organized Director of Development and Programmes at PAF. Our amazing “Go-Getter”, Sarra Ghazi Nasser, the CEO of PAF, and photographer extraordinaire, the teachers of all the schools that tolerate my lack of Arabic but still manage to co-ordinate with me, and of course, HRH Princess Alia…I cannot stress strongly enough what a truly genuine and beautiful person we are blessed to have at the head of the foundation…Unlike so many people in positions of influence, Princess Alia actually DOES make a difference and IS the good we want to see in the world.

When the mother of a dear friend asked me that question,

“And, what is it you do?”

I told her the answer was very simple….

“I walk up and down a hill all day leading horses, and God does the rest.”

Suyen Talken-Sinclair
Project Director
Growing Together