Le Bel Agneau: a farm with a special mission
Monday, October 8, 2007 - 12:05
The realization of a dream
Marc Bélanger and Suzanne Martel are the owners of a farm in Bolton West in the Eastern Townships. Like any farm, they have horses and sheep but these animals are there for a very specific goal: to benefit the visitors. In fact, besides massage therapy and art, yoga and stress management workshops, the farm also offers zootherapy and equine therapy.
Le Bel Agneau is a therapeutic farm which opened its doors in the summer of 2006. Several years before this, Marc and Suzanne set about to reevaluate their life goals after Marc sustained an injury. It was at this time that the idea for a therapeutic farm came to them and once they decided on this, Marc enrolled in intensive courses in zootherapy.
In 2001, Marc, armed with his new training, and Suzanne, with her 23 years of teaching experience and certificates in yoga, stress management and massage therapy, bought an 1800s farmhouse which they renovated to accommodate groups.
The beginning of a beautiful relationship
The MCH psychiatry department has a team which focuses on the needs of high-level autistic teenagers. The group has been in existence for more than five years and responds to a great need which is not targeted by official structures in place. The founders of Le Bel Agneau contacted the professionals at the MCH, who realized immediately that their patients could greatly benefit from the farm’s services. It’s thanks to this arrangement that, in 2006, the first experimental camp took place – an experience which proved to be very positive for the young participants.
Developing social skills while having fun
Jack Strulovitch is a social worker at the MCH. He took part in the camp for two summers in a row. When he talks about Le Bel Agneau his enthusiasm shows just how proud he is to have participated in the camp and how satisfied he is with the results for the young patients. “Suzanne and Marc did a terrific job,” he says. “They organized fun activities which helped the kids develop their social skills to allow them to interact with other adolescents. At school, these children are often made fun of and intimidated whereas at the farm, that doesn’t exist.”
Marc and Suzanne offer a range of activities. The teenagers can discover nature, take care of feeding and grooming the animals (dogs, cats, horses, and sheep), go fishing, swimming or do arts and crafts or music. One of the activities which has proven to be very beneficial is to let each child play the role of a shepherd thus allowing them to develop their leadership abilities.
“All these activities allow the teens to interact with one another and demonstrate their talents, which improves their self-confidence and their self-esteem. We’ve noticed that certain kids in the group, shy at the beginning, open up during the week,” says Strulovitch, “and continue like this once they leave the camp.” In fact, the social worker remembers a boy, rebellious at the beginning, who after the first camp was finished, proposed that he could share his experience with the participants of the next camp. There was also a mother who reported that her teen who was previously isolated was talking about new friends upon returning from camp.
The success of the camp speaks for itself and the MCH strongly believes in it. The last two camps took place thanks to funding from the MCH Foundation. From the beginning, there has only been one camp per year but the possibilities and potential are enormous.
If you'd like to help
If you would like to contribute to its success, you can make a donation to the MCH Foundation and mention that it should be directed to Le Bel Agneau.