TCTC Photo Essay – Refugees Build Trust at Kids Camp (part 1)

Time seems to wrap and unwrap events in my life like a long, streaming ribbon… It sometimes meanders, suddenly snaps taught, then loosens to spin me on my way again…

I was feeling untypically frail one morning in late June after a knee incident dictated unsettling news from my surgeon. There would be no recovery, just coping. My knees are toast, but they are connected to the rest of me. I was wondering how long I’ll be keeping up with the physical work. But I’m a catalyst. Motion keeps me going, and incredibly healthy. Thinking about TCTC and prioritizing my various roles I asked, “Where was I MOST needed? Where were my skills or talents VITAL vs. just passionately joyful? What did I do that no one else COULD?” I will have to slow down with age and hopefully grace. Take vulnerabilities in stride. Keep my vocation thriving, I decided. TCTC has such PURPOSE.

Just then my phone rang. Someone from the Portland Refugee Support Group (PRSG) named Nura Elmagbari. She recalled Walt and I donating medical, hygienic and household supplies to THEIR non-profit. HORSES had been mentioned. She wondered if we’d be wiling to host an event for war-torn/traumatized refugee youth aged 12-18, to experience touching, leading, and even riding a horse, if just for 5 minutes?

“These kids are shut down, violated, fearful, traumatized, maimed, and have only had war, refugee camps, school, isolation and social distancing in their lives so far,” she said. “We think the horses will help them realize there’s more to this world than fear, connect to themselves and then, hopefully, people again; through nature, a higher power, unconditional love, and these big animals supporting them.”

Chills swept my spine. THIS was what TCTC is all about. THESE moments!

Nura said they were hoping for a camp with nature, trails, water and gardens so the kids could “connect to fresh growing food from the earth and put their hands in the dirt.”

“We have ALL that here!” I said.

TCTC was instantly on for the biggest 3-day camp imaginable … over 150 kids/interpreters/PRSG youth/adult volunteers, TCTC Jr. & Sr. Leaders, volunteers and board members; and help from Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET) members, friends and neighbors who would volunteer their time and horses needed to cover this immense undertaking, July 9, 10, 11. Hmmmm…my BIRTHDAY! What a GIFT! Question answered. TCTC  imbues healing through Horses, Nature and Arts in a SANCTUARY where everything HEALS. It’s been happening all along. My job, no matter what, is using enough life/professional skills/talents/assets/networks to ensure TCTC can make a difference in lives for as long as it possibly can, and this was IT!

My computer chimed. Incoming message….notice of a supportive regular monthly donation!

The words THANK YOU don’t express how your generous help to TCTC feels. Grateful. Humble. Profound. Determined to do our best to share this beautiful place and the animals gracing it (including Daisy, who has been raised and trained from birth to be a therapy dog; Georgie, our barn cat, who loves nothing more than sitting on a lap to offer comfort and a good purr for some strokes; and yes, even Clara’s personable, adorable rats)… ALL RIGHT HERE!

Cultures, mores and protocols fused. The event flew by with only 1-1/2 weeks to prepare and execute it. TCTCers jumped in with energetic, dedicated enthusiasm. Everyone melded into an AMAZING TEAM, producing MIRACULOUS outcomes. I hope these photos capture the transformations in kids, adults and beasts alike, moving you as each moment moved us AND THE HORSES!

Walt described a particularly poignant moment watching a fearful descendent of the world’s most famous war horses hugging the kids after his introduction to a young lady who overcame HER tremendous fear, reached out, then touched him…

“It was amazing to witness the war horse comforting war-torn children, telling them, ‘This was not of your doing…you will be OK…’.”

We edited over 1,500 images…there were SO MANY MORE! Every name had to be Photoshopped out of the images as some of these families and/or those left behind in their homeland are still at risk, hunted by dogs and killed on sight. Personal stories were shared. Bread was broken together. Prayers were said and offered in hope they could adjust, adapt, overcome, and live while others they know still suffer and/or die. Fear was overcome. Horses were, indeed, touched, led, ridden (documented by PRSG’s staff photographer) and, an even bigger challenge… DISMOUNTED!  We heard laughter the third day that rivaled the happiest playground. Then horses were hugged one last time. Water balloons exploded in play, nature art projects were collected and heartfelt goodbyes exchanged… Our visitors left with nary a trace.

“The weekend was perfect and God has blessed us to help these kids,” Nura texted as she left TCTC. I had to agree. I felt blessed, appreciated, tiny and inspired by them all, participants, equines and helpers alike!

With creative planning our next camp will give these kids a chance to play with a garden train, sleep outside in nature (or under the arena roof) and, if it’s a clear night in Oregon, look at the stars and moon through Walt’s telescope for an even bigger picture of their new UNIVERSE.

THANK YOU for your sustained support. It’s growing good things…and we hope you will enjoy Part 2 and Part 3 of this PHOTO ESSAY as they emerge over the next few weeks and share these moments TOUCHING, LEADING and then, yes, RIDING horses to heal …


CLICK HERE to see the full story with photos and videos

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