On June 21st we were honored to host international visitors who came to AHEAD With Horses as part of Disability Rights – Equal Access for All: A Regional Project for Africa to learn about our program and how therapeutic riding can benefit children with disabilities. The visitors were Mr. Samuel Rimte, Specialized Teacher, Teaching Center for Disabled Children in Chad; Ms. Irene Esambo Diata, Vice Minister, Social Affairs, Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo; Mr. Richard Addai Buabeng, Senior Staff Nurse, Ghana Health; Mr. Bakary Mansare, Philosophy Teacher, Ahmed Sekou Toure High School in Guinea; and Ms. Aurelie Estelle Flore Milandou, Director, The Simone Chignau Center in the Republic of the Congo. The representatives were also accompanied by personal assistants Ms. Juliette Kipanga Lombahe and Mr. Abdoulaye Mansare as well as interpreters Ms. Samba Gadjigo, Ms. Larisa Lucaci, Ms. Meredith Rogers, and Ms. Rachel Russell as well as Program Associate for the IVCLA, Victoria Meza.
Executive Director Michelle Newman gave a brief overview of the program followed by a lesson demonstration while Board Member and parent, Julie Casey explained the purpose and benefits behind what they were watching. After the lesson demonstration, Michelle, Julie and Elsa all answered questions and provided more information. The group was very interested in hearing how the movements of the horse help increase strength, balance, flexibility and endurance. We explained that in addition to the physical benefits students learn to practice social skills as they converse with teachers, or even speak their first words; learn patience as they wait their turn or wait for a horse; become soothed or calmed from riding: and gain self confidence from pride in the skills they achieve by doing harder movements.
The International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (IVLCA), coordinated the visit to AHEAD With Horses as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), which is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Current and upcoming leaders, changemakers and influencers are hand-picked by the U.S. Embassies in their country to come to the United States for a two-three week program. The program varies in topic depending on their profession (i.e. Disability, Environment, Women Entrepreneurship, Foreign Policy, STEAM, etc.). The program connects these participants of the IVLP with their American professional counterparts in each city they visit in order to make connections and collaborations.
This particular program was developed by our partner Mississippi Consortium for International Development and includes city stops in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, California, Denver, Colorado, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Buffalo, New York (this is the order of their program). The goals for this project are:
• Examine federal, state, and local laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
• Explore public and private sector funding for services and quality of life enhancing programs for persons with disabilities;
• Learn how various governmental and NGO entities, advocacy associations, media outlets, and grassroots organizations influence policy and raise awareness about disability issues; and
• Create professional networking opportunities that facilitate long-term dialogue among the visitors and their American counterparts.
In addition to their visit to AHEAD With Horses the group also met with Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration, RespectAbility, and the UCLA Disability Studies Inclusion Labs.
We are honored to have been asked to participate in this project and would be happy to host other such visitors.