Our Farm Program
Road to Independence, a 501(c)3 pre-vocational training program, was created in June 2011 to provide a wider variety of opportunities and experiences for individuals with differing abilities.
We offer empowering opportunities on a local farm where we strive to improve communication and listening skills, as well as self-awareness in an outdoor setting with an emphasis on following proper procedures. We provide specific instruction in our horticultural and non-riding equine segments. As skills are practiced and mastered, self-confidence levels rise, and formally unemployable individuals are now better prepared for employment and community involvement. We see our pre-vocational training program as a starting point on the road to independence and a productive life within the community for individuals with differing abilities.
Our farm setting provides additional life skill building opportunities as well. Participants have learned to stack wood, shovel snow and manure, haul brush, fix fences, build a pig pen and have helped to stem back spring snow melts from flooding the barns. Many tasks that we as able-bodied individuals take for granted can be used as skill boosting routines. For instance, the necessary task of stacking wood for an individual with differing abilities breaks down to balance, lifting, communication and teamwork. This same concept is used in many of the projects we complete during our program day. We feel strongly that skills gained at Road to Independence will transfer to other employment opportunities within the community.
We recognize that not everyone can come to the farm, and we created an "On the Road" program. As our donkey handler's skills increase, they become our volunteers when we visit area elder care residences - Summercrest, Woodlawn, Harvest Hill, Woodcrest, Sunapee Cove, Sullivan County Nursing Home and Granite Ledges. We (participants, donkeys and volunteers) also participate in numerous area parades - Woodstock, VT's Wassail Parade, Homecoming and Winter Carnival Parades in Newport, NH and area 4th of July parades. We also collaborate with Full Circle Farm Therapeutic Horsemanship in Newport, NH and offer non-riding and driving opportunities to their school and Veterans programs.
Several years ago, three community members spoke with a local vender of day rehab services for adults with disabilities and discussed the possibility of some their clients coming to Chakola’s Place in Goshen, NH to learn some aspects of farming. Day rehab services refers to an approximately 30 hour a week community experience with each participant working toward a yearly goal; for most it is paid employment. We came to the agreement that 4 clients with an interest in animals, farming and farm maintenance would come to the farm.
Those clients who were interested in animals started with the donkeys and lots of questions. We started with appropriate behavior around the animals and on the farm. We then moved on to the basics: an explanation of a halter; how the buckle works, and how it fits on the equines head. From there we worked on proper leading skills. Through a combination of demonstration and verbal prompts, our group learned the proper procedures and could then go to the tack room, get a halter, safely enter a field with 5 to 6 donkeys, approach an individual donkey, put on a halter and lead it out of the field. Our clients are learning to use the proper brushes and to work safely around the donkeys. As soon as walking to and from the field was mastered, our group was able to lead the donkeys around the field or down the driveway which is about 1,000 feet long to collect the mail.
To increase self-confidence and handling skills, we set up practice obstacle courses like those encountered at Donkey Shows and our group learned to work the donkeys through the course. The clients learned how to bathe and groom the donkeys before a competition. In addition, these individuals are learning the routines involved with stable upkeep such as sweeping, mucking stalls, etc. At each step along the way and with each new learned skill individual self-confidence has increased.