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THE GRATEFUL DEAD INVESTS IN BERKSHIRE YOUTH AND FAMILIES
Berkshire HorseWorks secures grant from the Rex Foundation to fund empowerment program for young girls at risk
Richmond, MA – July 11, 2016 Berkshire HorseWorks Inc., which utilizes EAGALA Model Equine Assisted Learning and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy to provide services to at-risk youth, veterans, families and individuals has secured three grants from the Rex Foundation, US Trust and Seven Towns’ Educational Partnership Fund, according to Hayley Sumner, Founder and Executive Director of the 501(c)3. The Rex Foundation, created by members, family and friends of the Grateful Dead, granted $5,000.00 to fund an eight week empowerment program for young girls. Since opening its doors, Berkshire HorseWorks has provided services to nearly 300 clients, most of whom are suffering from mental and behavioral challenges.
In the fall of 1983, the Rex Foundation was established as a nonprofit charitable organization with a mission to help secure a healthy environment, promote individuality in the arts, provide support to critical and necessary social services, assist others less fortunate than ourselves, protect the rights of indigenous people and ensure their cultural survival, build a stronger community, and educate children and adults everywhere. The band played the first of many Rex Foundation benefit concerts in the spring of 1984. The Rex Foundation has since granted $8.9 million to over 1,200 recipients.
This funding has enabled Berkshire HorseWorks to provide an eight week “Girls Rule!” program to a group of young women from the surrounding community to help them learn how to stand their ground when needed, practice self-care, and know when to ask for help. It is our intention to provide a safe, fun and challenging environment in which the participants may learn and grow. Sessions are designed to foster self-reflection and target key strengths including leadership, independence, confidence, and perseverance. Berkshire HorseWorks is currently identifying eligible individuals to partake in this program from Berkshire Regional and Pittsfield School Districts, residential treatment facilities, the Student Resource Center, the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department, Berkshire Children and Families, the YMCA, and the Brein Center.
In addition to the Rex Grant, Berkshire HorseWorks has also received a $1,000 from the Seven Towns’ Educational Partnership Fund to provide a half day Life Skills Development workshop for Wahconah Regional High School students. The program is designed to support the school’s initiatives to increase self-confidence, foster creative thinking, encourage problem-solving, nurture empowerment, explore effective communication, enhance time management techniques, develop healthy boundaries, strengthen self-care skills, cultivate mutual respect, and provide a safe environment to have fun and build friendships. This program will kick off in the Fall of this coming school year.
Berkshire HorseWorks has also received an unrestricted grant from the U.S. Trust which will supplement existing programs at the farm and help expand the reach to more of those in need.
“I can’t thank these foundations enough for supporting our equine assisted programs. Although we have been seeing clients for over three years, we are just in our second year as a nonprofit and these grants in conjunction with our generous donors have enabled us to expand our programming. It is critical that we catch our youth at a young age and give them every opportunity to develop the skills to excel and make good choices. Integrating families and other support structures is key to their success and that is a large focus of our life skill development initiatives,” stated Hayley Sumner
Also, remember to register for the first annual “Horses and Hikers for Healing: A Scavenger Hunt,” to run through BNRC’s Hollow Fields. The event will be held on Saturday, August 13th and will be followed by a BBQ Hoedown, with live music from Dan Gingras. To register, click here: http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=o8qsepsab&oeidk=a07ecrd49nt4c863723
Berkshire HorseWorks™, a 501(C)3 based out of a 27 acre compound in Richmond, MA is part of the international EAGALA network of 4,500 certified professionals in 50 countries providing Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) and Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) to at-risk youth, veterans, active duty, their families and corporations. Experiential, highly effective, and rooted in evidence-based practices, EAP treats a broad array of mental and behavioral challenges. EAL incorporates Equine Assisted Team building by partnering with school districts, local businesses, and international corporations to enhance personal development and reinforce group dynamics in the workplace. Services are offered by appointment seven days a week during individual sessions, workshops and wellness retreats. Through the power of horses, Berkshire HorseWorks™ provides the tools to cope, challenge, communicate, heal, lead, empathize and thrive in today’s world.
The most recent issue of “Berkshire’s Best” Bridal Guide includes an article about Berkshire HorseWorks’ first grants that were recently secured. The article (replicated in the accompanying graphics), share the entire article. To see the original article in its online form, please follow this link and find us on page 25.
Berkshire HorseWorks was covered in a November 1, 2015 article on the website, MeetingMagazines.com. The article covered types of teambuilding techniques and Berkshire Horseworks was the lead feature in the article. See their coverage below
or click here to see the original article on the MeetingMagazine.com website.
To an outsider, corporate teambuilding activities may simply look like fun and games, but in reality, they can play a significant role in helping an organization reach important goals such as improving communications, fostering a better sense of cooperation or learning to overcome challenges. And the choice of teambuilding activities now available is as diverse as the organizations that engage in them.
When Antoine Alston, owner of Berkshire Functional Fitness in Richmond, Massachusetts, was getting ready to launch an innovative new fitness concept, he wanted to find a teambuilding activity that would take his employees out of their comfort zone. Alston chose Berkshire HorseWorks, a nonprofit organization located in Richmond, Massachusetts, to guide his group of 14. Berkshire HorseWorks specializes in equine-assisted personal development programs designed to help employees learn how to work together toward a common goal and/or to adapt to a new management style.
Contrary to what some people may assume, the Berkshire HorseWorks program does not involve horseback riding. The goal of the program is to have participants learn about themselves and others by connecting with the horses and then observing and discussing the experience. All sessions are led by professionals trained and certified by the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA).
Berkshire HorseWorks “gave me a really good assessment of who was willing to get out of their own comfort zones, take charge and be comfortable being uncomfortable.”
— Antoine Alston
“Horses are innately intuitive,” explains Hayley Sumner, founder and executive director of the program. “They give feedback in the moment. Because they are fight or flight prey animals, they’ll make a decision in a split second as to what they’re going to do in reaction to those around them.” She says that horses can sense whether someone is being true to themselves. “If there is an incongruity between what you’re saying and how you’re acting, they will call you out in a moment. You have to adjust your thinking and think out of the box. When the horse feels that there is a connection, and that the person has come to a place of acceptance and openness, the horse is more apt to work with them.”
One exercise that the facilitators at Berkshire HorseWorks conducted was to have each participant choose the horse that is most like them. “The alphas of the group picked what they thought the alpha horse was, which was completely incorrect,” Sumner explains. She says that the lesson taught here is that people should not make assumptions about others on their team, because those assumptions may turn out to be false.
In another exercise, the participants were asked to self-identify themselves as to whether they’re natural leaders or less inclined to speak up. Next, an obstacle course was created to represent the challenges the participants typically had to navigate during the course of a work day. Then the tables were turned. The self-described leaders were blindfolded and had to follow the verbal directions of a non-leader in order to lead their horse through the obstacle course successfully. This exercise helped the non-leaders step up and feel what it was like to be a leader, and taught the leaders what it felt like to be vulnerable and have to rely on their teammates.
After each exercise, the group discusses what they learned from the experience. Sumner said that the leaders talked about how uncomfortable it was to feel vulnerable and that they had to be able to trust that they were safe with this person leading them. This led to a discussion about what the options are when a person feels vulnerable and whether there’s a way for them to spread out responsibility.
“It was a very unique approach to many things, from communications to teambuilding to cooperation to problem solving,” Alston explains. “It was something different, and it still spoke to the things that I need in my company and the interpersonal relationships that we had to work on. I basically wanted people to forget some of the old-school thought processes and get them out of their (regular) environment.
“(The Berkshire HorseWorks program) was a nice way to do some icebreakers and work together on a situation that none of us really was familiar with, which is kind of what I’ve been asking them (to do in my business) anyway. Second, you have these big, beautiful horses, and these obstacles,” he adds, explaining that the members of his group did not have previous experience with horses. “I thought, OK we’re going to be uncomfortable together and walk this through together. What a great environment to do it in and to have it be facilitated by professionals, at that.”
Since Alston was looking to his team to take his company into uncharted territory, the Berkshire HorseWorks program gave him a unique opportunity. “It gave me a really good assessment of who was willing to get out of their own comfort zones, take charge and be comfortable being uncomfortable. When you’re doing something that kind of goes against many other standards in the industry, you’ve got to be ready for it and be strong in what you’re doing.”
Alston said that the full-day program definitely helped him achieve his goals. “I learned a lot about my team, and my team learned a lot about me. We also had fun, which was actually very important because no one was in their comfortable place. It definitely disclosed some things I wasn’t prepared for, but it also disclosed many things I was extremely happy for.”
Meeting planners are consistently challenged to find corporate team building activities that are new, interesting, and effective. And that’s exactly where horses come in! Equine-assisted team building activities can foster critical thinking, help people re-engage with their co-workers, and define or reinforce their place in the larger corporate culture.
A recent article in Meetings Net, featured as the Event of the Month, showcased equine-assisted team building activities by Berkshire HorseWorks. The nonprofit organization’s approach to team building has been used to:
- Define how employees can work as a team toward a common goal such as increased productivity or landing a new client
- Work with staff to adapt to a company’s new management style and initiatives
- Navigate cultural differences and cultivate empathy
- Learn crisis mitigation
- Prepare for an IRS audit
- Build camaraderie
Berkshire HorseWorks offers corporate team building activities in sessions of 90 minutes, half-day or full-day workshops, and customized multi-day retreats. For more information contact Hayley Sumner at (310)488-9777.
See image of the original article below. Click link for a printable PDF document of the actual article that appeared in Meetings Net.
The May 2015 issue of Lenox Living magazine includes a feature article on Berkshire HorseWorks and volunteer, Heidi Brandt. Volunteering at Berkshire HorseWorks for two years, Heidi shares why she loves volunteering for BHK and responds to other interview questions asked by author, Heather Herman. Read the entire article here.
The Berkshire Eagle wrote a fabulous article on May 8 about Tim Hayes and the upcoming Natural Horsemanship Clinic to be held at Berkshire HorseWorks on Saturday, May 16. Berkshire HorseWorks will be featuring the Hayes Clinic as a fundraising event.