A support group is helping people improve their mental health — with a flock of sheep.
Emma Redman, 37, and Pippa Ashton, 46, launched EWE Talk last year. The nonprofit organization based in Thame, in Oxfordshire, England, aims to help struggling adults and children.
“We can go to people’s houses and help those struggling with loneliness and isolation,” said Redman, according to SWNS, the British news service.
While the pair started their service with just one sheep, today they have a flock of seven sheep and two goats to help people who find life challenging.
Animal therapy can have both psychological and physiological benefits, studies have shown.
Said Redman, “One of the things we have always known is how useful animals are as a tool to help those struggling with diversities and mental health issues.”
She added, “People usually think of horse and dog therapy.”
Instead, she said, “We offer a safe space. If [children] want to talk to us then they can, but maybe they just want to play and giggle and laugh and run around with the sheep.”
Valais Blacknose sheep are known for their dog-like temperament.
She also said, “We want to be there to help anyone who needs us. We’ve got so much belief that what we can do is make a difference,” as SWNS reported.
The two women started EWE Talk after Redman was given the opportunity to buy a unique breed of sheep — a Valias Blacknose.
Valais Blacknose sheep are known for their dog-like temperament, making them excellent animals for providing emotional support, said SWNS.
From there, the pair realized there was a gap in the market for a unique animal therapy venture and decided to go for it.
While their goal is to visit schools and educational settings with the fluffy friends, currently they welcome children struggling with their mental health to their farm.
On some occasions, they’ve even transported the flock to locals in need of emotional support.
Now, they’re hoping to secure more funding to expand their operation.
Said Redman, “We are a mobile service, which is unique — we load two animals into a vehicle and can go anywhere within the county.”
“We can go to people’s houses and help those struggling with loneliness and isolation.”
She added, “We can go to people’s houses and help those struggling with loneliness and isolation.”
She also said, “We’re not an alternative education provider. Our focus is on well-being and emotional support for children with neurodiversity and mental health issues.”
Redman also explained, “We’ve run pilots with people offering free services mostly from home … A young girl came to the farm who had tried all different types of therapies and for first 10 minutes she didn’t want to engage.”
But then, after a bit of time, “she was in the stable with the sheep being cuddled — [and] over the hour we started to talk and there was laughter and smiles and she’s come back weekly since.”
Said Redman, “Every time we see a child benefit from time with the animals, it gives us that passion to move forward and make a difference.”
She also said of those who benefit from their work, “We felt honored that we were able to be there with them and support them … and they let us in.”
“If we can make difference in a few people’s lives, then it’s a success.”
She also said of children who are struggling with a variety of issues today, “All the children going through these things are superheroes. If we can make difference in a few people’s lives, then it’s a success.”
Recently, the group shared on its Facebook page another example of its work.
“EWE Talk made an official home visit to young Joseph,” they wrote.
“It was wonderful spending time with this family and seeing the impact the animals had. Joseph’s [mom] told us it was the longest time ever that he spent outside in their garden.”
They added, “It was an honor to spend this time with them all and [we] look forward to hosting him at the farm at the end of the month.”