Ukranian Horse Therapy Program is Helping Children

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13 year-old Egor is one of five at-risk Ukrainian Jewish children with special needs from the Odessa community who recently visited the city’s Horse Club for a special therapy program.

The therapy differs from others in that its innovative healing techniques use horses to assist kids with developmental and speech delays, as well as neurological disorders.

Living with his mother and grandmother, Egor’s family already works tirelessly with him to improve his speech and knew horse therapy would be a great supplement to the work they are already doing.

“Our boy likes all the things JDC organizes for us, especially those where he can enjoy communicating. He also likes animals very much and it was unbelievable for him to ride horses," said Valentina, 75, Egor's grandmother. "Without JFS, it would be impossible for us to be here today since one therapy session costs one sixth of my monthly pension, and the three of us survive on my daughter’s salary and my pension. This is happiness for all of us.”

Horse therapy is a highly efficient tool for rehabilitation, known around the world for helping to spur children's physical and emotional development.

Over the next four months, once a week, the group of children will participate in these therapy sessions. Along with their parents and grandparents, the kids all already receive support in the form of food cards, medications, psychological rehabilitation, and more from Odessa's JDC-supported Jewish Family Service.

In addition, the program includes family Shabbat retreats twice a year, Sunday meetings involving a special art therapy group, and even family theater for kids with special needs.

Although this is the first time the Jewish Family Service is utilizing this particular service, in 2010 and 2011, several kids engaged in dolphin therapy at the Odessa Dolphinarium, sponsored by the JFS/Hesed.

The initiative is possible thanks to a partnership between JDC's Shaarey Tzion Hesed social welfare center and the city's local Horse Club.


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