2017 has been a bit of a pivotal year in the life of Mane Chance, and despite all the changes happening, what has remained steady is the hard work of the staff and volunteers and the support of so many of you – without that, we couldn’t have functioned as well as we have this year.
The year started off on a great footing with our inaugural New Year’s Day Walk which brought lots of people onto site to meet the horses and blow away the cobwebs of the Christmas break. With the help of our wonderful volunteers, visitor numbers to the site have grown massively with 7 Open Sundays throughout the year along with special days for sponsors and friends. We also introduced the Easter Egg Trail, Share a Shettie, welcomed back the Duke of Edinburgh students, MAD day children and had numerous Corporate Volunteer days. These all culminated in bringing many new faces to the charity along with a huge amount of welcome free labour throughout the year!
Our new community co-ordinator role has already had a great impact on the community visits that we are able to arrange and we have really started to extend our reach into the community. Young adults from Jigsaw+ remain a weekly fixture at the Sanctuary as they carry out their various tasks – they love their visits. We have also welcomed groups from Shooting Star Chase, Sight for Surrey, New Barn School, Rodborough School, St. Dominic’s School and so many other local community groups throughout the year. They are learning not only about the horses and the work it takes to keep them well and safe; but also understanding huge amounts about themselves too – developing new skills, new confidences and learning tools of coping with the stresses of modern day life.
We have run work experience and provided curriculum-based activities for some young people with learning needs that are studying for their animal management course. We have also successfully passed two groups of Duke of Edinburgh students, all working towards their bronze and silver awards, The Share a Shettie experience is proving hugely successful and the days sell out almost as quickly as we announce them. And there are so many more contacts that we have made which will increase even more the opportunities we are able to create next year – for those who home school their children, for care/nursing home residents, the Meath Epilepsy support charity and so on.
Chance2Be ran its pilot course with nine students in November/December who had been identified as needing a little extra support. The results were even better than we could have imagined and each child embraced the techniques of relaxation and self-awareness that they were taught and then couldn’t wait to apply them in the field with the horses. We have had amazing, positive feedback from the youngsters themselves, parents and the school who are reinforcing the learning back in the classroom environment and are staggered at the improved behaviour and attitudes of the children. Our horses do act as wonderful teachers and together with the time spent in the barn, the programme seems to be finding a way through. Our funding from Children in Need for Chance2Be starts in the new year, so we look forward to welcoming more children on site and hope that they benefit as much as the first group. When a young teenager, who is the sole carer of a parent at home, turns to one of our practitioners and says ‘Thank you for not judging us’, it brings a tear to the eye and shows what an impact our herd and our Sanctuary can have. Long may it continue!
On the equine front, we have had five new arrivals – Diamond, Hamish, Duncan, Teddy and Rocky – and we have had to say goodbye to three – Ernie, Bobby and Mo. It’s so hard to be riding on the rollercoaster of emotion that working in animal welfare demands sometimes; and this year feels particularly cruel as we have lost two of the biggest characters on site. But we have 29 other wonderful equine hearts for us to engage with and whilst they will never be forgotten, we take a deep breath and move on.
This has been a very busy year for onsite developments. The main focus was the building of our wildlife pond and bridge. We were so proud when Eamonn Holmes cut the ribbon to open it and we now have this beautiful area which offers lots to our visitors. So much else happened around the site; new flooring was laid in the barn, electrical work was upgraded around the site and we opened our new onsite merchandise shop. Fencing, shelters and sheds were all erected amongst other things. We are now in the preparation stages of the Shetland Project which will provide a dedicated area for the shetties, suitable to their differing needs from our main herd in terms of forage and environment. It is a hugely exciting undertaking.
Fundraising has never been so difficult and we continue to strive to keep the charity afloat but we keep going. We had 2 Galas – one in Windsor and one at the Phoenix Theatre in the West End. A huge number of celebs performed at both events and we are very lucky to have this support from these people. We also had 2 soccer clinics for the children, one here in Merrist Wood with Sammy Lee and coaches from Fulham FC and one up in Liverpool with the help of Duncan Ferguson and all at Everton FC. Our Golf Classic was once again a highlight of the year and was a great success.
Many of the staff and volunteers were so proud to be in London’s Leicester Square to see Jenny’s name in big lights on the premiere night of her latest movie, Another Mother’s Son. Everyone donned their best bib and tucker and happily posed for the ‘paparazzi’ on the blue carpet. Mane Chance also benefitted from the night, so it was a win win for our little charity. And of course, our Summer Open Day, with the appearance of Eamonn Holmes, was the onsite highlight of the year. These and so many other fundraising events are at the core of the charity and we are so grateful to both supporters and volunteers for all their efforts. It’s a constant battle to raise money, not helped by the current economic climate, Brexit or the new GDPR regulations but we won’t be deterred. Look out for more events and news next year…..
So bring on 2018 and all that comes with it. We do hope you will all continue on the journey with us…. A big thank you to all of you – whether you poo pick, groom, fundraise, bake, rattle buckets or sort rug and tack – whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly that you give time to us – we thank you. We know that there are so many demands on everyone’s time and money right now, and so for you to keep coming back to us, we are very grateful. Big thanks also to those who provide grants, sponsor our events, help us with supplies, take adverts, sponsor our horses – we couldn’t exist without your support. You are all the lifeblood of this charity.
Thank you for being part of the Mane Chance family. You can donate to us here at any time and become a horse sponsor here. If you are interested in sponsoring an event or holding a fundraiser for us, you can contact us here.