Horse Therapy Project in Mexico, by Lisa Mictchell
Lisa Mitchell won a Volunteer Arbaod scolarship from Cork Institute of Technology and went for an 4 weeks volunteering programme in Mexico
The journey began in CIT, where I applied for a volunteer scholarship, I had already made my mind up that I wanted to go to Mexico. I wanted to experience Mexican culture and see some of this vast country if possible. Also the program they ran there was therapeutic riding for children with disabilities, I love horse and was also very interested in how animals seriously impact childrens lives with disabilities. I had watched many documentaries on this subject and also a good friend of mine has a son with autism and their lives have been turned around when they got him a trained dog.
So off I went, Dublin-London-Benito airport Mexico city. On arrival I was met by Cecilla, host organisation representative, she took me by taxi to my accommodation. The next day I was met by another host organisation representative and for the next two days I was shown around Mexico city, taking in some of the important sites of interest. It was great not having to worry about figuring out maps and places to eat!!! I then left for Queretaro, which is roughly 3 hours north of Mexico City. Upon arrival there I was met by my Mexican family – they are just amazing people. They took me to their home and welcomed me and I felt at home straight away.
I then started my volunteering at the Don Cuandro riding centre, Queretaro, I met all of the crew involved and all working at the yard. We had 17 children start the program, their ages ranges from 2.5 to 12. They all had different disabilities so had different needs and the way the therapy was coordinated. The first week was a bit challenging as some of the children were very nervous but by the second/third week there was massive improvement and trust was building up between everybody. It was pretty amazing to experience this first hand and see how the children were progressing with the therapy. I also spoke with some parent of children who had been attending the therapy for a number of years. They explained to me how their children had come on leaps and bounds since starting working with the horses, they were much more confident, were attending school and participating in school plays and much more. The atmosphere is very relaxed and reassuring at the centre.
When I was not working at the centre my lovely Mexican family kept me entertained by taking me on day trips at the weekend. We visited Bernal, Piso and San Jose. We ate beautiful Mexican food, talked, laughed and got on really well. We went to many coffee shops and enjoyed coffee and cakes. I could not have asked for nicer people to stay with, they always included me in whatever they were doing but also respected my privacy. I met Ale’s parents and her family and again they welcomed me with open arms and prepared delicious food. Queretaro also celebrated its 485th birthday when I was there and myself and Ale were out for dinner and we then attended a free concert in the main square. It was typical Mexican music which is absolutely divine, I bought 2 cd’s and am sharing this wonderful music with my friends and family.
So I guess to sum it all up; I had a wonderful time and experience in Mexico. The people are lovely, food is just as nice as the people, I had many encounters with different people and they all showed me love and laughter. Would I tell people to go there? Yes if you have a chance definitely go there and experience Mexico. Would I go back, without a shadow of a doubt! The only thing I would change is I would have stayed longer if I could. The 4 weeks was not long enough, it would have been great to see the children progress over a longer course; even though the results were amazing in just 3 weeks. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and would encourage everybody to do something like this.