The Horse and his Boy

The Big Give Christmas Challenge is supporting a a unique partnership at Chailey Heritage Foundation

A special friendship with a miniature Shetland pony called NicNac has helped 18 year old Finn Humphrey to improve his communication skills and be able to express his preferences. Finn is a student at Chailey Heritage School and has complex physical, medical and educational needs.  He requires specialist support to assist him in activities and meet his needs each day. 

NicNac is one of the animals living at Patchwork Farm, the on-site therapy farm at Chailey Heritage Foundation, which is entirely funded by donations. The Farm is fully accessible to children and young people with complex physical and cognitive challenges, and the interaction with the animals allows them to help look after things that move and grow; an essential part of growing up.

This year, the Farm is at the heart of our annual Big Give Christmas Challenge Appeal which runs from 30th November to 7th December (details at our web site www.chf.org.uk/thebiggive2021). Every £1 donated during this period will be matched, and we are hoping to raise a total of £25,000 to ensure the running and upkeep of Patchwork Farm.

Jemma Smith, Finn’s teacher, has noticed real improvements in Finn’s communication skills and involvement in the Farm since he started working with NicNac: “From the first session Finn had with NicNac, he was very engaged. He reached out to touch the pony while remaining calm and focused. Finn had previously not always been as engaged at the Farm and would vocalise to indicate he wanted to finish or change activity. While working with NicNac, Finn remains focused and happy, he does not indicate that he wants to leave but will clap and follow the instructions to lead, groom and feed Nic Nac. When he returned to the classroom after his first session, we were able to engage with Finn using his symbol communication board. This allows him to indicate his preferences to us using symbols– and he told us he wanted to do more with NicNac including taking him for walks”.

These sessions have continued and Finn shows his focus and enjoyment each week, continuing with his positive communication. NicNac can also be heard whinnying as Finn arrives onto the Farm, cementing a very special bond.

Finn’s mother, Rowena, who lives in Worthing with Finn and his two younger sisters said: “We are thrilled with the progress Finn has made since he met NicNac. Their unique friendship has really improved Finn’s communication and helped us understand more fully what he needs. His confidence has improved and Patchwork Farm continues to be a very important part of his life”.

More than a hundred children and young people using the Charity’s services benefit from visits to Patchwork Farm every year and enjoy the contact with all kinds of creatures from ponies and goats to chickens and Guinea pigs.

Will Folkes, the Charity’s Fundraising Manager, said: “We’ve made a great start thanks to the support of our corporate sponsors and our Big Give Charity Champion, Candis Magazine, who have between them generously pledged £12,500 in matched funding. This funding will enable us to keep providing all the benefits of the farm to the young people, which is why Patchwork Farm is the focus of this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge.”

The fundraising target for the appeal is £25,000. Donations made on line at the Big Give website will be match funded between 30th November and 7th December. More details can be found here: www.chf.org.uk/thebiggive2021