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A new charity, Aroha Animal Therapy and Wildlife Sanctuary, has been established in the Outer Hebrides.
It is the brainchild of Lily Mackenzie, a therapist for more than 20 years with experience of working in the areas of mental health and trauma recovery.
In 2019, she retrained in the non-talking support of Canine Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT).
AAT has proved to be a beneficial and successful support for people of all ages and from all backgrounds.
Animals can provide a deep social and emotional support for a person, as they are non-judgemental, non-threatening and comforting.
AAT promotes stress reduction, self-confidence and can re-engage a person who is withdrawn bringing them out of isolation.
AAT has no barriers as animals make no distinctions and they can connect regardless of a personal language, impairment, or challenges.
Lily explained: ‘Aroha is a Māori word for compassion or kindness. Aroha Animal Assisted Therapy Centre and Wildlife Sanctuary is now a registered charity, with an incredible board of trustees.
‘Our main aims are to make AAT accessible to any individual, group, or event. To empower people, promote mental health awareness and wellbeing.’
Based in Stornoway, Aroha is holding a series of special storytelling sessions at Stornoway Library, featuring Moby, the lovable Old Tyme bulldog.
Moby is incredibly calming and can encourage a safe and relaxing interaction. The first of these storytelling sessions took place on Saturday and the next is on Thursday, April 14, at 1pm and 2pm. For those unable to make these sessions, more are being planned for the future.
Kathleen Milne, libraries manager for Western Isles Libraries, added: ‘For some time, we have read about the positive impact of animal companions on helping children gain confidence in reading and we are so thrilled with the opportunity to work with Aroha on introducing similar sessions.
‘We look forward to being able to introduce more sessions at libraries across the islands.’
The wildlife sanctuary part of Aroha is still in the process of being funded and when established it will be raising awareness of local wildlife needs and will have a dedicated team actively involved in rehabilitation and release of animals.