Your donations helped a team of five FLEX alumni – led by Volodymyr Kobrin – to provide extensive horseback riding therapy to five children who suffer from infantile cerebral paralysis in Lutsk, Ukraine. The therapy provided immense positive emotional impact for children who are too often stigmatized and denied opportunities to participate in outdoor activities. More than that, every one of the children involved experienced improvement in their physical condition and increased development of their motor skills. Both parents and doctors of participants noted that, after the project, the muscle spasticity of the children was reduced significantly, and their body movements consequently became more free. Your support was crucial for the project, which was a continuation of a similar initiative funded last year by a grant from the State Department. Thanks to your donations, the project provided each child and his or her family with 13 different riding sessions. Furthermore, your support helped to expand the sessions to include exercises specifically designed to improve children’s fine motor skills. For example, one exercise had children catch and throw small balls while riding on horseback. Your support provided these sessions to low-income families who otherwise would not be able to afford these kinds of unique therapies for their children.
Alumni partnered with a local nonprofit, "Special Child," to provide transportation and help to identify and work with the project participants and their families. The Regional Institute of European Development also provided support. Alumni worked with Ms. Oksana Kvas, a horse breeder with training in epotherapy, to create an environment that was both safe and conducive to medical and psychological healing. The families of the children also participated, helping children mount the horse and providing moral support during the exercises.
The project involved young volunteers from across the community who not only helped implement the riding sessions, but also were able to challenge some of their own assumptions about the limitations facing children with infantile cerebral paralysis. "The project helped to attract the community’s attention," said Kobrin, the project leader. "More people are now aware of the challenges facing families who have children with disabilities."
The project’s continued success has led Kobrin and his alumni team to plan on a third session next summer. They have already secured pledges of support from their partners, and the participation of a neuropathologist, who will more closely monitor changes in the participants’ health both before and after the activities.