Community foundations from the Okanagan have teamed up with CMHA and horse-assisted therapists to offer the Front Line Hero Appreciation Initiative as a way for the community to say thank you to frontline workers. (Photo supplied)

Community foundations from the Okanagan have teamed up with CMHA and horse-assisted therapists to offer the Front Line Hero Appreciation Initiative as a way for the community to say thank you to frontline workers. (Photo supplied)

Horse therapy offered to Okanagan frontline workers

Community foundations team up with mental health and horse-assisted therapists to offer program

Workers in health care, law enforcement, emergency responders, care homes, grocery stores, on crisis lines, pharmacists, and many more on the front lines are experiencing the pressures of the pandemic, day after day.

These frontline workers are also dealing with the same increased stresses in their personal lives as the rest of us, such as changes in household income, children and schooling hurdles, aging parents and personal health issues — to name a few.

Due to the increased demands, the pandemic has had on the personal and professional lives of frontline workers, many are feeling overwhelmed and burned out.

The Front Line Hero Appreciation Initiative has been initiated by the Community Foundation North Okanagan (CFNO) in partnership with Central Okanagan Community Foundation, Community Foundation South Okanagan, Canadian Mental Health Association, and horse-assisted therapists across the region – as a way for the community to say thank you to frontline workers, by offering them a way to care for themselves.

“The idea came from a successful initiative in the Lower Mainland. When we were approached to offer it here, it intuitively seemed like the right thing to do,” said CFNO executive director Leanne Hammond. “We have donors who already champion equine-based therapy for stress alleviation and treatment of PTSD. As the COVID-19 situation continues the timing seems perfect to put this idea into motion for the entire Okanagan.”

Horses are known for their calming effects on people.

Horse-assisted therapy is a proven method for treating people who are experiencing stress and anxiety for various reasons.

Clients working with a professional therapist, who is also a horse expert, can grow their own emotional awareness and transfer the learning that takes place with the horses into their everyday lives. Horses sense what is going on “underneath the surface” and will respond accordingly.

“Whoever you are and whatever you are experiencing – being with horses offers you a new perspective to life,” said Annika Voeltz, an experienced horse-assisted therapist.

“Horses communicate with your very core, so everything on the outside, whether it’s stress, distractions, or the layers you are putting on to protect yourself from life, simply seem to disappear and let you focus on your priorities.”

This unique partnership between the three Okanagan Community Foundations, the CMHA and horse-assisted therapists across the Okanagan region, is encouraging the community to support frontline workers by making a donation.

With support from the community, horse-assisted therapy can be offered to any frontline worker at no cost to them. Some things are hard to talk about, some things are hard to acknowledge, and some things just build without us even noticing. Nobody should be dealing with mental health on their own, especially now and especially the frontline workers.

Donations are being accepted online at www.cfno.org, every $75 donation funds one appreciation session.

The Community Foundation recommends nominating someone you know on the frontline, or leave it up to their team of Frontline Hero Appreciation organizers to select someone who could benefit from a session.

READ MORE: Cash available for North Okanagan non-profits

READ MORE: Vernon-based group ready to back building COVID-resilient communities



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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