Keryn’s farm is chang­ing the lives of strug­gling kids and ne­glected an­i­mals

Woman's World - - Contents -

When Keryn Den­roche quit her job to pur­sue her pas­sion of res­cu­ing in­jured and ne­glected an­i­mals, she thought she was just ful­fill­ing a life­long dream. But when she saw the ef­fect the an­i­mals had on strug­gling chil­dren, she cre­ated a farm where they could learn and grow to­gether—and has changed hun­dreds of lives in the process!

Keryn Den­roche smiled as she ush­ered the two new­est res­i­dents, Gra­cie and Peanut, into her Bri­tish Columbia, Canada, barn. “You’ll be safe and happy here,” she whis­pered, watch­ing in awe as the two cows nosed around their new home, stick­ing to­gether as though they were at­tached at the hip.

Keryn had res­cued the pair from a nearby farm, where both cows had been marked for slaugh­ter. Three-year-old Gra­cie had gone blind some time be­fore, suf­fer­ing mul­ti­ple in­juries from re­cur­ring ac­ci­dents, while Peanut, just 2 months old, had been or­phaned.

But when Keryn had first laid eyes on the pair, their in­cred­i­ble con­nec­tion was some­thing she could pal­pa­bly feel in her heart. Now, mar­veling as Peanut led Gra­cie around their new home, stick­ing close and show­ing her the way like a guide dog, Keryn’s heart swelled with joy.

This is why I do this, she thought with a smile. Ev­ery an­i­mal de­serves to live all their days in com­fort and peace.

Tak­ing a leap of faith

For years, Keryn had been called to start her own an­i­mal res­cue, and at age 50, she took a huge leap of faith. Keryn quit her suc­cess­ful cor­po­rate job and de­cided to re­turn to school to pur­sue her true pas­sion: an­i­mal stud­ies. Af­ter en­rolling to get her bach­e­lor of sci­ence in hu­mane ad­vo­cacy and an­i­mal wel­fare, Keryn ea­gerly dove head­long into her classes—tak­ing par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in the con­nec­tion be­tween vi­o­lence in peo­ple and an­i­mal cru­elty.

I want to help stop both, Keryn thought as her pro­fes­sor ex­plained that for chil­dren who have been ex­posed to vi­o­lence and trauma at an early age, in­ter­act­ing with an­i­mals of­ten proved cu­ra­tive in cop­ing with their emo­tional

is­sues. One spe­cial pro­gram caught Keryn’s at­ten­tion: a non­profit farm in Cal­i­for­nia that had started an early-in­ter­ven­tion pro­gram where at-risk kids helped care for an­i­mals to heal from emo­tional trauma.

I won­der if we have any­thing like that in Canada? Keryn thought ex­cit­edly. But af­ter search­ing, she found noth­ing like it in her area… and a light bulb flick­ered on in her mind.

I’m go­ing to do it! she re­solved. I’m go­ing to open my own farm, where chil­dren and an­i­mals can heal… to­gether.

The bonds of love

In 2008, af­ter earn­ing her de­gree, Keryn cre­ated Semi­ah­moo An­i­mal League, In­cor­po­rated (SALI), a non­profit farm sanctuary for an­i­mals who had been aban­doned, ne­glected or abused.

At the start, a cou­ple Keryn knew of­fered their sta­ble as a home base, and her farm soon flour­ished, grow­ing to in­clude a host of res­cue an­i­mals— horses, goats, sheep, rab­bits, cats, tur­keys, chick­ens— each with their own per­son­al­ity and in­spir­ing story.

As her brood grew, Keryn be­gan work­ing along­side lo­cal so­cial work­ers to host SALI’S Chil­dren’s Pro­gram, an early in­ter­ven­tion pro­gram wherein lo­cal at-risk kids visit once a week for eight weeks to in­ter­act with the farm an­i­mals and help brush, feed and care for each of them. It’s amaz­ing the change that it makes in these kids, Keryn mar­veled as she watched the once sullen, with­drawn boys and girls blossom and come out of their shells. So­cial work­ers also re­ported that the chil­dren in the pro­gram were in­ter­act­ing bet­ter with their peers and many were now ex­celling in school. And when Gra­cie and Peanut ar­rived, those changes be­came even more pro­nounced. Peanut, then just a baby, was bot­tle-fed by each child in the pro­gram. As they took care of the young calf and wit­nessed her love for Gra­cie as she helped her nav­i­gate the new en­clo­sure, the chil­dren wit­nessed pure com­pas­sion up close. And when Gra­cie gave birth to the farm’s third cow, Clover, a few months af­ter her ar­rival, the chil­dren saw a spe­cial blended fam­ily, and even with their own im­pair­ments and prob­lems, were ul­ti­mately bound to­gether by love.

“They’re all so dif­fer­ent,” one girl ex­claimed, her eyes alight as she stroked Clover. “But it doesn’t mat­ter—they love each other and ev­ery­thing is okay!”

And the pos­i­tive changes were not lim­ited to the chil­dren—the an­i­mals have flour­ished too. To­day the sanctuary has moved to a new farm in South Sur­rey, Bri­tish Columbia, where it’s now able to house more than 32 an­i­mals. Gra­cie’s orig­i­nal in­juries are healed, and she of­ten wan­ders the farm freely and with­out fear, while Peanut has blos­somed un­der the care of both the chil­dren and vol­un­teers, al­ways ask­ing visi­tors for ear scratches and pets.

Keryn was sur­prised how much it has changed her own life. “It’s a gift to of­fer a safe haven for at-risk kids and res­cued an­i­mals to bond and grow,” she smiles. “See­ing the un­con­di­tional love be­tween them brings me end­less ful­fill­ment. They learn and heal to­gether. There is noth­ing more beau­ti­ful in the world!” — Alexan­dra Pol­lock

“Of­fer­ing a safe haven for at-risk kids and res­cued an­i­mals brings me end­less ful­fill­ment”

Peanut ( left) and Gra­cie ( right) were both saved from a nearby farm, and are now help­ing chil­dren heal from trauma

than “There’s noth­ing more beau­ti­ful other!” see­ing an­i­mals and kids heal each ther­apy says Keryn, here with Clover, a League cow at the Semi­ah­moo An­i­mal

Louise the rooster is one of 32 dif­fer­ent an­i­mals at SALI Helpers hand-feed the lambs, like Cedar, to learn com­pas­sion

Tw o l it tl e vol­un­teers groom and feed Peanut, one of three ther­apy cows on the farm

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