Therapy farm for vulerable children needs someone to save them
Summer Fields looks like a normal farm. It has the menagerie of horses, cows, dogs, cats, donkeys and Missy, the pig.
But this is far from a normal farm. The Karaka based property is a therapy farm - a place where traumatised children come for animal-led rehabilitation.
It is run by Marie Gordon, alongside her husband John, who bought the farm in 1999. The idea was first planted when the couple let a troubled young man into their home, where there two horses and rural surroundings helped him to find happiness again.
The farm's two rehabilitation programs grew from there, with children being referred from schools, CYFS, therapists and mental health charities.
The kids come to the farm to learn to care for and ride the horses, but it doesn't just stop there. The horses become friends to the children. If a horse senses pain in a child, Marie says, they will wrap their heads around the child in a hug and kiss their face. They become a source of comfort and love for kids who previously lacked it.
One young orphan, says Marie, recently lost all of her family. When the girl arrived a horse named Angel, the most sensitive of the horses, walked over to the girl, placed her head on the girl's stomach and held it there. For 10 minutes.
"It was like Angel was saying, "I know, I know," says Marie tearfully.
The staff simply watched as girl and horse clung to each other. The girl came away smiling.
Marie also remembers another girl, who was so seriously depressed she no longer saw a point in living. But after riding the horse for just one session, the girl began to smile and talk about the future for the first time.
"She was smiling and laughing and crying out, 'I want to own horses! I want to ride horses!'" smiles Marie.
She had found a reason to live.
But all of Marie's hard work is now at risk. Her husband John, who she ran the farm with, is gravely ill with cancer. The farm has always been run on charitable donations; donations from ANZ and The Tindall foundation were the only reason they survived last year.
But donations have dried up and the farm receives no government money. Previously John had covered many of the household and animal costs.
"But now he's seriously ill," wavers Marie. "We... we don't... we don't have that resource anymore."
The rescue cat, Tom, has a $600 vet bill for an amputated tail. Do they know how they're going to pay it?
"No," whispers Marie.
But she doesn't want to sell the farm. She could do, but she won't because she knows how important their work is.
Marie was once in the same position as these children. She had a painful, traumatic childhood, causing her to leave school early. But she was given a second chance by another, and she runs the farm to keep that spirit alive.
"Someone helped me once, and I am indebted to him," she says quietly.
It means she won't sell the farm, despite the fact that it'll make her bankrupt. She doesn't want money anyway, she just wants a place to help the children.
"A lot of broken hearts find solace here."
For more information on Summer Fields farm click here.
Verity Johnson is a reporter at Newshub.
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