Pet lambs reared from prize-winning sheep at Hydebank Wood College have been donated to a local charity which provides animal therapy for children with autism and life-limiting illnesses.
The Border Leicester and Texel-cross lambs, were handed over by the Northern Ireland Prison Service to the Kids Pony Foundation at Drennan Road, Lisburn.
Sheep were introduced at Hydebank Wood College two years ago as part of an animal therapy rehabilitation initiative for students.
Ricky Graham, Vocational Training Officer at Hydebank, who is also a part-time sheep farmer, worked with the students to teach them basic livestock and husbandry skills.
“As well as learning all about animal welfare, the students got to show the sheep at Balmoral and picked up a couple of prizes,” explained Ricky. “But the big prize for staff and students at Hydebank was the birth of the lambs in March this year.
“They’ve been reared on the bottle by one young student in particular and as a result are very, very friendly – absolutely ideal for the Kids Pony Foundation.”
Laura Gordon, instructor at the Kids Pony Foundation, said: “The new lambs – we’ve named them Lucy and Charley - will bring so much joy to the children who come here.
“The Pony Foundation has been running for a number of years now, but we don’t just have miniature ponies – we have all kinds of breeds of animals and birds including, pygmy goats, deer, peacocks and hens, chickens, ducks and geese and even wallabies, alpacas and an ostrich. But we didn’t have any lambs, until now.”
Laura added: “The Foundation provides therapies for children with special needs from the ages of five to 16. They get to spend time with them, feed them and learn all about them in a very friendly and safe environment.”
Alison Breadon, from the Belvoir ASD Support Group in Lisburn, said: “We support around 40 families from across the province and can bring as many as 60 children in a week to the Pony Foundation.
“The donation of two pet lambs by Hydebank Wood College will help to enhance and enrich the lives of the children who visit the Pony Foundation with us. It’s just a very special thing they have done.”
Stevie Mann, Student Development Governor at Hydebank Wood College, said: The therapeutic value of looking after and caring for animals is widely recognised. The young men who would not normally have exposure to farm animals, have been given the opportunity to develop new skills and gain self-confidence. One of the two sheep we donated to the Kids Pony Foundation was delivered by one of our students. This young man had no previous experience of husbandry and under Ricky’s tutelage was able deliver the lamb on his own.
“Much of our work goes unseen, behind walls and fences but we are still very much a part of the community. Projects like this are helping to support the young men in our care to change and that is one way we help to build a safer community.”
Notes to editors:
- Hydebank Wood College which has a focus on education, learning and employment, accommodates young people between the ages of 18 and 21. It also accommodates female remand and sentenced prisoners in Ash House, a house block within the complex.
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