Alea Rollman and a horse named Banjo share a special bond.
For the past two years, Banjo, who resides at Green Meadow Farm in Leola, has helped Alea tackle trauma issues from her past, work through her fears and connect with others.
Green Meadow Farm provides an opportunity for children and teens ages 6 to 18 to interact with horses and other farm animals, as well as work on the farm. Students receive one-on-one lessons over 10-week sessions, during which they learn basic horsemanship and beginning riding skills, free of charge.
“We have seen such growth and healing in Alea from the time she started there to now,” her mother, Mimy Rollman, says. “Our family has also seen healing and restoration through this program.”
Rollman learned about Green Meadow Farm and its programs through post-adoption services at COBYS Family Services in Leola and says her daughter has benefited more than once from the organization.
“Alea had some trauma from her past, and we were working through a lot of defiance and attachment issues,” she says. “We heard that Green Meadow Farm helps kids deal with fears and trauma and were looking for any help.”
After initially making progress when she started at age 7, Alea, now 9, regressed a bit after leaving the program, so Rollman signed her up again.
“We again made great progress,” she says. “Then this past summer we all felt like she would benefit from closure and knowing that it was her final session there, so they fit her in for that. It brought so much closure for her, and we are so grateful.”
Alea says she loves riding the horses and other activities at the farm.
“I like petting the sheep and checking for eggs,” she says, adding that the program had a wide range of benefits for her. “They helped me by helping me not to be so hyper. It helped me not to be so scared. I used to be scared that my mom wouldn’t come back if she went on a trip. It helped me to listen to my parents better and not get so mad.”
How it started
Green Meadow Farm began in spring 2012, when John and Beckie Thompson were looking for a way to connect their love of horses with children in need.
After helping with a fundraiser to assist families with the costs of adoption, they realized many families face challenges after children have been adopted.
Inspired to make a difference, they began using their farm as a bridge of hope for struggling families.
Green Meadow Farm’s mission statement is “Connecting children and families with horses and farm life to bring refreshment, renewal and rest.”
That mission is fulfilled every day, Beckie Thompson says.
“God’s unconditional love, the horses, sheep and other animals that live here, together with the beauty found on the farm, has made the vision become a reality,” she says.
The farm uses a mentorship approach to help students.
“We do not provide therapy services, but it is often said that the outcome is very therapeutic,” Thompson says, noting students sometimes experience breakthroughs that help on their journey toward healthy connections and relationships.
Children who have gone through the programs at Green Meadow Farms have learned coping skills, how to calm themselves, how to show respect for others and more, she says.
Help goes two ways
Alea’s affection for Banjo had benefits for the horse, as well.
“(The horse), interestingly enough, was also going through defiance toward authority,” Rollman says. “By helping Banjo work through that, Alea also realized that those in authority in her life aren’t there to hurt her, but to help her succeed.”
Rollman says she would recommend Green Meadow Farm to anyone looking to help a struggling child.
“I’m so grateful that places like this exist,” she says. “(My daughter) made so much progress that wouldn’t have happened with traditional therapy methods. We are also grateful to those who support this ministry. Adopted kids deal with so much trauma, and it’s such a blessing to have places like this who do what they can to support adoptive parents and kids. John and Beckie pour their heart and soul into this ministry, and it is so evident.”