“Only nature can save humanity,” Sichkar says as she outlines equine-assisted therapy – or horse-therapy, and the purpose of the centre she is building not far from Kyiv. Her thinking is bold: “I believe in non-traditional medicine and think nature and animals, horses in particular, can treat people better than doctors and pills. I have seen the incredible results from horse-therapy: children born with cerebral palsy who could not walk or even sit, start moving and walking!”
A horse-lover herself, Sichkar has been riding for years, and after coming across information about horse-therapy, she began carefully studying the phenomenon and the possibilities to be able to introduce it in Ukraine. Her research was rewarded with a meeting with Olena Petrusevych – “a forest fairy” as Sichkar calls her. “She’s been practicing horse-therapy for children with various physical disabilities for about 20 years. When I heard the story about her horse Kamelia – the first equine used for this type of therapy in Ukraine, all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place and I decided to build a centre for horse-therapy in Ukraine,” says Sichkar.
The story of Kamelia is touching: after the horse was retired from racing in 1994, she continued working with children with different disabilities. Unfortunately, the horse died a few years ago, but Sichkar says the new horse-therapy centre will bear her name as tribute.
Even though horse-therapy exists in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine, Sichkar’s will be the first centre of its kind, with a composite approach to all kinds of rehabilitation. In addition to horse riding, the centre will also have massage and physical therapy rooms, art and music-therapy lessons and so on. “There is a real need to have all these practices under one roof, as they will complement and enforce the effects of horse-therapy, also improving the emotional state of the child,” Sichkar explains. So far, parents who have children with cerebral palsy, for example, have to travel to different spots of Kyiv to combine horse-therapy with physical therapy, and long trips on public transport exhaust both the parents and the child.
The ambitious plan for the centre also has an ecological philosophy at its core – the centre will have its own eco-farm, eco-garden, and will use solar energy and biofuel equipment. In addition, the centre will also serve as a scientific base for both studying the phenomenon of horse-therapy and implementing new ecological technologies.
Taking all that into account, Sichkar says the centre will be unique with no equivalent in Europe. Her project may even be a world-first: when Sichkar detailed her plans to Dmitriy Tsverava from Georgia, the first person in the world to study and practice horse-therapy, he told her no such centre existed anywhere in the world!
Another unique aspect of Kamelia is its principle, “Pay as much as you can”. The project is charitable both in theory and practice: children with physical disabilities and their parents will have free access to horse-therapy and other services in the centre; others wanting to ride for relaxation or go on an excursion will pay as much as they can. The motto of the future centre is also interesting – “Children Rule Here”. Sichkar explains its meaning: “I want to create a state where a child is a citizen with full rights, while parents and adults are foreigners who have to follow certain rules: no alcohol or smoking, no swearing or negativity. I believe children can change the world for the better and they are able to change their own parents for the better too, so in this way I hope the centre will help to revive the values of a happy and harmonious family.”
Kamelia’s opening is planned for next year; the preliminary estimated cost is about $3 to 4 million and construction is already at full steam. However, Sichkar believes her example is rare and she remains disappointed in Ukrainian businessmen in general. “Unfortunately they don’t yet understand the social responsibility big business has, which means I must look abroad for investment. I hope by donating to this project foreign companies will set a good example to our oligarchs and make them think a bit of the future of this country.”
by Kateryna Kyselyova