An Unusual Ministry - A Horse Show in Haiti
On Dec. 11, 2005, a wonderful event took place here in Haiti in the midst of all the violence. A horse show with a difference took place at Henfrasa Horse Club. The difference was that many of the participants were handicapped children, most of them from the large orphanage of NPF (Nos Petits Freres et Soeurs).
It came about when Gena Harety, an Irish volunteer in charge of “Kay Christine,” the house for the physically and mentally challenged in the orphanage village, met a friend of Mme Romy Roy, the owner of Henfrasa. The friend knew that Romy was looking to extend the riding courses beyond the club to some less privileged in Haiti. The meeting was “a marriage made in heaven.” As a result, every Thursday a busload of about 25 children arrives at Henfrasa. Sometimes I accompany this eager and excited group of children.
The children are taught to ride and given many exercises such as lying back or forward on the horse or extending arms outward and turning the body side to side. The discipline is good for these children who function better in a routine. Seven children ride while others wait their turn by feeding the horses in the stalls. They also have to comb and groom the horses after the saddles are removed and the showers leave the horses dripping wet.
Some severely handicapped children like Roudley who could not sit alone on horseback are taken by a trainer and go around the course. Some like Pascal are able to ride alone. As they progress in learning to ride and also do dressage, their pride and enjoyment can only be described as “liberation.”
The trainers’ kindness and attention under the direction of Romy Roy is wonderful to see. Her “can do” spirit is caught by her staff. There is Paquito, seen in the photo above, with his ponytail and laughing teasing eyes, whom the children adore. He cajoles them while demanding their best. He himself had suffered paralysis, so he knows what this project means to the children.
Everyone is happy during those Thursday mornings. The open space, the fresh air, the green shade trees, the beauty of the horses and everyone’s concentration all contribute to this happiness. Mme Roy sees this outreach as a bringing together of the more and the less privileged who both grow in the experience. When our children were spectators of the regular students’ jumping competition, they were wonderful, crying “Bravo!” and clapping their hands. There were no faults or errors as far as they were concerned. There was fascination and great interest and perhaps a dream of one day mastering the art of riding!
By Mary Alban Bouchard CSJ