Many businesses have had to close, but a Kelowna animal sanctuary has been fortunate enough to stay open and offer a calm site for residents in the midst of the pandemic.
Arion Therapeutic Farm offers a variety of therapy programs as well as riding classes but founder and director Heather Henderson said they lost many of their students once COVID-19 peaked.
“Some of our clients, especially children with more complex conditions, require hands-on support from our staff and volunteers. But because of COVID-19, the volunteers didn’t want to be in close contact, and the same goes for the families,” she said.
“As a result, we did lose about 97 per cent of our student body. We do have a few that are still coming and because they’re more independent, they’re still doing weekly therapy.”
The sanctuary is mostly volunteer-run, but Henderson said they do employ some staff to run the therapy sessions, but they’ve unfortunately had to let the instructors go.
But despite those losses, Arion kept their gates open, which has given many people a place to go instead of being cooped up at home. The 12-acre farm offers plenty of chances for physical distancing, which Henderson said people recognize and use to their advantage.
“We’ve been very blessed that people are looking to do just what we’ve been offering for more than a decade here, which is therapeutic experiences with animals. And anybody can have that and enjoy that,” she said.
“This past month, we’ve been fortunate enough to have more than 500 families with children of all ages come through. It’s also helped us stay open during very tough times.”
Shyloe Fayad’s daughter signed up to adopt a horse at Arion. Since adopting a horse, Fayad said they’ve been at the farm every single day, not only caring for the horse but also volunteering their time to help around the property.
She said coming to the farm has helped her daughter.
“Before we started coming here, she spent a lot of time in her room and she was really grumpy. I would say that her coming out here has made her feel more confident, more relaxed and more capable of enduring this long time without her social network around her. She just seems to be in a better space than before,” she said.
“I’m a coach and I work with mental health a lot, so I know what it’s like when circumstances are happening in your life that are outside of your control. It’s often beneficial for you, particularly in trying times, to go somewhere and do something that might be outside of what you normally do and get into nature. Nature is a massive healer.”
Currently, Arion Therapeutic Farm is offering annual memberships, so people can come to the sanctuary as many times as they want.
For more information on classes, programs, tours and memberships, visit their website.
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