Sixteen-year-old Candace loves Purpose Farm, a place where she can set her hurt aside and feel the unconditional love of animals. She says being at the farm makes her happy and helps her release anxiety and stress. That’s exactly what Founder Sandra Seabrook envisioned when she launched the unique mentorship program 14 years ago.
At Purpose Farm, youth with emotional issues stemming from neglect, abuse, bullying, and similar challenges connect with the farm’s animal and human mentors. As they assist with chores and bond with the animals, the children find purpose, experience love, build confidence and gain empathy.
“Most of our animals come from a neglected and abused background, too,” Sandra explains. “These animals, once lonely, hurting, and looking for affection and a friend, are now cared for by children who are often in the same position.”
It’s a powerful combination, and one that volunteer Lynn Fofi says gives the participating youth confidence, skills, and experiences that will support them throughout their lives. “Purpose Farm is working to improve the lives of so many kids that wouldn’t otherwise know that life is good,” she explains. “Simply by giving them opportunities to love and care for animals, they see how they can make a difference in the world.”
When Justin arrived at Purpose Farm, he was emaciated, bruised, and swollen, the victim of years of abuse and neglect. But according to Sandra Seabrook, founder of the New York-based nonprofit, the quarter horse’s difficult life story makes him the perfect partner for the youth mentoring program she and her family run.
At Purpose Farm, they pair youth ages 6-18 struggling with emotional trauma from neglect, abuse or bullying, with animals that have been rescued from similar circumstances. “They overcome their traumas together as they work at the farm,” Sandra explains. Today, 40-some animals call Purpose Farm home. Most, like Justin, are rescues.
At the farm, the animals find a loving, forever home, and new purpose as mentors for troubled children and youth. Sandra says the healing flows both ways. “The youth respond so quickly to our animals,” she explains. “In just one session, they’ll go from being quiet and emotionless, to smiling, asking questions and helping care for the animals.”
It’s all part of Sandra’s mission: to make a difference in the lives of both humans and animals. “If I can let these kids know that what they are going through now is not the way things will always be, give them hope for their future, confidence to live it out and love them to the other side, then I have fulfilled my purpose.”