In the fall of last year, Caritas Kolomyya-Chernivtsi Eparchy started an ambitious and unique project—near Kolomyya in a village called P’yadyky in Ivano-Frankivs’k they opened the Kovcheh animal farm. It was opened so that children with mental and physical disabilities could undergo rehabilitation there, revive ancient shepherd traditions and give families a place where they can vacation. The founders of the farm say that it is the only one of its kind in Ukraine. Financial assistance for the project was provided by locals and partners from Olomyts in the Czech Republic.
“Animal-assisted therapy is medical treatment. Therapists include horses, dolphins, cats, and bees. Why not add sheep to the list? Theories and experience shows that they have a beneficial impact on human health. Sheep are plentiful in the Carpathian region and have had a special bond with locals for hundreds of years. Over the last hundred years however, the number of sheep has declined significantly, and in the Kolomiya region they have disappeared completely. Caritas Kolomyya-Chernivtsi eparchy wants to change this,” says Serhiy Tryfyak, Director of the local Caritas.
The first inhabitants of the Kovcheh animal farm were sheep and then horses appeared. Caritas staff worked hard during the winter months, and now we are seeing the results of this work. Staff is most pleased by the increase in the number of sheep. In the past month 18 lambs were born, and more are expected. When winter finally ends, they’ll shear sheep. Sheep therapy literally means treating with sheep in Latin. It consists of three factors: feeding, items made of their wool and interacting with the animals.
Crops will also be planted on the farm’s fields. There is still much left to do to bring the farm into shape. One of the first things on the list is to build a manege. Simply put, with the coming of spring, the farm will come to life. Caritas has plans to make brynza out of sheep’s milk, find ways to use the wool sheared off the sheep, and eventually, sell sheep. Reviving sheep farming is a priority for the farm.
Mr. Tryfyak notes that our grandparents couldn’t imagine a life that did not require communing with nature on a daily basis. People knew how to live harmoniously with their natural surroundings while utilizing the gifts nature provided. Now however, the family farm is fading and it’s time to revive it!
The Kovcheh animal farm has already become a favourite place for many local and city children. On the weekends many families come to the farm so that their children can interact with the animals. The main assignment of Kovcheh is to help children with special needs by providing them the opportunity to interact with animals. The farm will also be open to other children who just want to be closer to nature.
Caritas brought their child clients to the farm several times. Children who benefitted from such visits were children of labour migrants and children from disadvantaged, single parent, or multi-child families. They had the opportunity to shepherd a flock of sheep and ride horses. For most of the children this was a totally new experience. The smiles never left their faces; they were extremely emotional when interacting with the animals. Other children who want an opportunity to commune with nature will also be welcomed at the farm. For this purpose they built a recreation area for families.
“The children and their parents so enjoyed the sheep—they couldn’t wait to pet and hold them,” says Oksana Ryzhuk, a Kolomyya resident. “Children of all ages calm down immediately because the animals emit serenity and positive energy as they have since the beginning of time. They are the curly, soft animals we often see next to Jesus Christ in icons.”
“There are more jobs in the village since the farm opened,” says Roman Sikors’kyy a local official. “People have work and don’t have to leave their families to travel around the world to earn money to buy a piece of bread. It is also nice to the large, abandoned territory used again and cared for. I think that Kovcheh is a great beginning to the revival of the family farm and the development of philanthropy in the Frankivs’k region.”
A video of the opening of Kovcheh can be seen by clicking here.