Brave Cody set to change lives
His survival was considered somewhat of a miracle but now Cody, a horse that suffered bad burns and dehydration during 2017’s devastating Knysna fires, is set to become an ambassador of hope.
In a bid to disrupt a generational cycle of abuse and trauma in young children in the Knysna area, The Eden Empathy Initiative aims to introduce horse therapy to unblock the youngsters’ emotions.
Cody the Brave, as he is now known, is a 10-year-old horse that, during the fires that ravaged the area in June 2017, was ushered across the N2 as a last resort when a blaze encroached on his home, Essendale Farm.
Cody will now be a part of an initiative rehabilitating children from bad circumstances.
While the project is still in its infancy, Cody – who has made a wonderful recovery after surviving the fires without food or water for 16 days – has become its ambassador.
Working with children from disadvantaged areas, the initiative was conceptualised in February 2017, initially to prevent animal abuse.
However, founder Karen Rademeyer said she realised they needed to start with the education of people first.
“We are excited by the international interest and support from clinical and humane education specialists in their field,” Rademeyer said.
“We also have the support of the education department, which immediately saw the value in our programme.
“I have a phenomenal team at my side and we can’t wait to get started,” she said.
“After the fire, Cody’s story and his bravery just added a whole new dimension to the project and he automatically became our ambassador.
“His message is that anybody can get through anything but you have to be brave enough to get the help.
“We want to help people understand that to help animals, you have to help people first.
“Animal abuse and violence are usually carried out by people who have been abused, usually in their childhood.
“So what we are trying to do is disrupt that cycle because it just carries on from one generation to the next.
“By disrupting those cycles we hope to teach children to develop empathy.
“Empathy is not a choice – it is an ability, and one that is easily lost when we shut down certain emotions that have become too painful to bear.
“This inability to feel or care is how the abused often go on to become the abuser (of humans and animals), and this is exactly what The Eden Empathy Initiative aims to prevent, through early intervention.”
Rademeyer said the initiative is likely to make a significant impact – not only in terms of helping the children and animals directly involved in the programme, but also by creating an awareness of why such a dire lack of empathy exists in SA, how this affects all South Africans, and how people can work together to create kinder, more caring communities.
In 2017, Cody’s story captured the hearts of many South Africans and animal lovers abroad, who raised more than R132,000 towards his treatment, and this new initiative is largely dependent on donations at this stage
Once off the ground, the project will be a school-based programme and will include humane psychology and horse therapy with specialists.
The animal-assisted therapy offers an assortment of activities which the children will enjoy without carrying the stigma sometimes associated with actual therapy.
“The programme will also extend to the children’s families, where we would rely on our network of organisations to assist,” Rademeyer said.
“If we are dealing with a group of kids and we notice that some of them need individual attention, we look more deeply at their home situation and assess whether other organisations can assist.”