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Time to hand over the reins – Chailey Heritage volunteers step down after 4 decades of service

14 October 2021

Two Barcombe neighbours, who’ve clocked up more than 80 years of volunteering, have decided it’s time to hand over the reins to a new generation. Liz Cullen and Mary Duncan have been a key part of Chailey Heritage Foundation’s Hippotherapy team.  Hippotherapy is part of the Charity’s physiotherapy programme. It involves using the movement of the horse to help young people with complex physical and learning difficulties to benefit from the physical and cognitive benefits of horseriding. Different positions on the horse e.g., lying down or sitting sideways can improve muscle tone, range of movement and communication skills.

Mary and Liz joined Chailey Heritage in the 1970’s and both were inspired to volunteer with the Charity after hearing about its work with children.  Although the two weren’t near neighbours back then, they did have other things in common, including a love of horses and riding.  

Mary said: “Over the years, the way that Chailey Heritage works with and cares for young people has been transformed. I have really enjoyed working with the horses as riding can help with so many aspects of a child’s life.  I remember one young boy who could barely support himself but on a horse, he was able to sit up tall and the confidence he gained was amazing.”

Liz added: “I volunteered with almost every department at Chailey Heritage during my 40 plus years including the art classes, music therapy and swimming. Chailey has been a family affair in the past. My children fundraised for the Charity and I developed my career as a teaching assistant for young people with special needs.”

As part of the hippotherapy team, Mary and Liz have been hands on, supporting the children on horseback and leading the Charity’s two specialist equines – Todd and Milly.

The Charity’s Fundraising Manager, Will Folkes, said:  “Our hippotherapy sessions are entirely funded by donations and it is only with the help of dedicated volunteers like Mary and Liz that we are able to offer this specialist activity to so many children and young people. We are so grateful to them for their incredible contribution. They will be missed by us all.”

While both Mary and Liz will miss the children, staff, volunteers and of course the horses, they’re not putting their feet up just yet. Both still have busy lives with families, hobbies and jobs to return to. They’ve loved their volunteer experience with Chailey and recommend it to others. Mary found her volunteering fulfilling and enjoyed the camaraderie – while Liz will remember the unique interaction with the young people and being part of their transformation.

Now the two neighbours are looking forward to new challenges and the occasional catch up over a cuppa!

The Charity will be looking for new volunteers to help with the horses in the new year.

If you are looking for a rewarding career working with children and young people at Chailey Heritage Foundation, please visit: /careers.html

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