Sii Power Volunteers is a grant program for Sii Poland’s employees who submit community initiatives for various charity organizations. Many of them volunteer systematically and it also happens that they set up a foundation themselves. Michał Drzewiecki is a Health & Safety Specialist at Poznań Branch of Sii and, at the same time, for several years he has been running ‘Pomóc Inaczej’ Foundation, which deals mainly with hippotherapy for disabled children. He told us about how an NGO organization is run and what project he implemented thanks to Sii Power Volunteers.
How did your adventure with horses and hippotherapy start?
Michał Drzewiecki, Health & Safety Specialist BHP: At the beginning of 2016, I bought my daughter a horse, so she could learn how to ride. Persi, as an animal dedicated to working with children, has all traits appropriate for such work: he is obedient, trustful towards people, patient, but also active and learns new things quickly.
The purchase of a horse aroused considerable interest among the parents of my daughter’s peers, neighbours and friends – we live in a small town where everyone knows each other. Through social networks, I started to receive more and more questions about activities for children, mainly for those with disabilities. The number of these messages made me interested in the topic of hippotherapy – primarily in terms of the requirements that must be met to conduct such classes: as to the qualifications, equipment, facilities for class recipients, etc., and I checked the organizations in the region providing such services.
On March 22, 2016, I set up the ‘Pomóc Inaczej’ Foundation. We started with the modernization of the area and facilities in Stary Bojanów, where we conduct our classes. In mid-2018, my wife obtained the necessary certification and became a hippotherapist.
Where did the idea for the foundation come from?
M.D.: The idea of establishing a foundation was suggested by my friends. In the beginning, I welcomed it with a lot of interest, but also with caution resulting from legal complexities. I did not know what to do or how to start working on it, but then PISOP Association came to the rescue, dealing with activities for non-governmental organizations. Thanks to the substantive, legal and financial support received, our foundation moved on.
In the beginning, the scope of activity focused on hippotherapy classes and a way to earn money, i.e. gastronomy. I bought a food truck called “Fairy Tale Pancakes”, serving savoury and sweet pancakes, delicious waffles with fresh toppings and drinks. In the following years, we built a room with a total area of 144 m2 on the foundation’s premises, thanks to which we were able to launch another service provided by ‘Pomóc Inaczej – special events for the local community both for private individuals, but also for schools.
A mini-zoo quickly became the main attraction with a large number of parrots and decorative poultry, a peacock, 2 sheep and currently 3 horses. Additionally, we run first aid courses for primary schools, teaching the youngest correct behaviour in medical scenarios.
The core staff of ‘Pomóc Inaczej’ Foundation is currently made up of 5 people: 2 hippotherapists: my wife Renata and Małgorzata, Marian, who helps to keep the facility in spotless order and cleanliness, Mateusz as a paramedic and I as an employee for all kinds of activities, i.e. administrative, creative, conservation, marketing and many others.
What is hippotherapy?
M.D.: Hippotherapy is a targeted therapeutic action aimed at improving human functioning in the physical, emotional, cognitive and social spheres, during which a specially trained horse is an integral part of the therapeutic process. Hippotherapy has a great influence on the balance and spatial orientation of our patients. It improves motor and respiratory functions, in addition to increasing general condition, dexterity and improving cognitive processes. In children with cerebral palsy, it relaxes and reduces muscle tension. The contact between a child and a horse is very important. The animal is a source of many experiences for him, it provides the patient with numerous stimuli.
The main recipients of the Foundation’s services are families from our Śmigiel commune and neighbouring communes: Lipno, Krzywiń, Przemęt. Currently, about 20 children regularly attend our classes.
The Foundation carries out activities that allow for its financing. Do you get any support besides that?
M.D.: We have been cooperating with the Śmigiel commune and the Kościański county from the very beginning. Owing to this, the Foundation can count on substantive, financial and legal support in terms of applications and required permits.
The first initiative we carried out with the commune was Santa Claus Day for children with numerous competitions and a Christmas concert. In the following year, we organized a bicycle rally and Children’s Day for the inhabitants of the commune. I am happy because cooperation and multidimensional scope allow us to be a dynamic organization acting for the benefit of the local community, stimulating activity and development.
The most important project conducted with the commune are two recurring events: “First Aid with the Foundation” – a program of co-financing passes for classes for families with children who require therapeutic support, and “First Aid in the Foundation”, an initiative for conducting training in primary schools in the field of first aid for children aged 6 – 10 years.
You submitted a hippotherapy project to Sii Power Volunteers Program. Please tell me what you did during this venture.
M.D.: The project was attended by 15 volunteers, who, during their visits to the Foundation, helped with the construction of a saddle room, painting the fence and hippotherapy classes, including work with animals. The classes were held from August 29, 2020 to October 17, 2020, which allowed for 6 very fruitful and effective meetings.
Sii Poland also supported the Foundation financially – thanks to this, we were able to sponsor hippotherapy tickets for children from ‘Niebieska Ciuchcia’ – the therapeutical kindergarten. This news was welcomed with great joy by this institution and parents who tried to help or support our volunteers with a good word during their work. I think that it was also a good time for the volunteers themselves: it allowed us to look at horse classes differently, see what our daily work looks like, and also have a feel of some of the stimuli that the kids receive during the classes.
What are your further plans for the Foundation’s development?
M.D.: Continuous development is my goal. I already have some planned activities and we are starting them from spring 2021 on! The first project is the revitalization of green areas in the Foundation, i.e. the garden and lawn at the event room, along with the construction of a barbecue area. Another major project will be the modernization of the Foundation building above the stable. After the renovation and replacement of the roof on the first floor of the building, I plan to arrange 4 rooms for guests, thanks to which we will be able to organize day camps and stationary holidays for children.
As part of Sii Power Volunteers Program, the company carried out almost 30 charity projects in 2020, donating nearly PLN 160,000 to those in need and local communities – find out more.