Just one paw: to bring pet therapy to children from Ukraine

Alexandria – I am refugees from Ukraine have arrived in Tortona in recent months. Among them are mothers with children, people with disabilities and a group of blind people: the journey was long and tiring because there are so many kilometers that separate Lviv from Alexandria. When we first arrived, however, the welcome was not long in coming, and now the mothers, the children and the children are guests of the Mater Dei Center, which for years has offered shelter and help to the people who need it most in the area. . .

Lonely, orphaned and severely traumatized children they were brought to Italy by volunteers from the National Confederation of Mercies and welcome to two projects in the Northwest: in Alessandria, in the Mater Dei Center in Tortona and in Rimini, at the Aiutiamoli a Vivere S. Antonio Cattolica Foundation.

“We are in Tortona, the place where the first children were brought, which we, like Misericordia, have recovered from Ukraine,” said Antonio Dal Torrione, President of Misericordie Piedmont. “A journey of many hours for exhausted children who were initially without sleep and eating”. Today in the center “children are hosts and daily support activities are carried outcultural, aid and integration activities with our world ».

Dog therapy 2

One of the activities dedicated to children and organized together with the non-profit organization For a Smile, is the Pet Therapy meetings, designed for give children a smile in this moment of confusion and insecurity. Today at the Mater Dei Center in Tortona, boys and girls who have arrived from Ukraine can spend time with their new four-legged friends through recreational and educational activities organized for those who want to help alleviate fear, insecurity, family tragedies. But these initiatives, as evidenced by the various projects launched by the non-profit organization in various regions of Italy, are also particularly suitable for children living in fragile contexts, children with disabilities suffering from autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders.

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In fact, the great power of pet therapy is given by the interaction between child and dog: this generates an improvement in the quality of life and an increase in children’s well-being, activating the resources for individual growth and planning. Pet therapy then works on emotional-affective mechanisms that aim to lower the level of stress associated with insecurity, malaise, relationship difficulties, insertion, and integration. This therapy eventually develops self-confidence, protection, emotional release, motor skills and team spirit.

Today, more than ever, these activities can make a big contribution to the little ones, and help them meet this period

The goal of For a Smile Onlus is therefore to bring Pet Therapy wherever it is needed. As President Ludovica Vanni explains, “this is an innovative experiment, especially useful in this confused and anxious climate in which we all live“big and small”. As we told you in our previous article, the project started in hospitals and then spread to schools in connection with the reopening after the interruption for Covid, helping children face the difficulties due to the long period of isolation.

Dog therapy

“Today, more than ever, activities of this type can make a big contribution to the little ones, and help them meet this period.” Antonio Dal Torrione explained. “In Ukraine, children’s silence amazes. Their childhood torn to pieces under the rubble, with a confused look, without a smile, is a blow to the heart. They are children who are wounded in the body and even more so in the mind and soul.

“In the tragedy of the loss, they need to gradually find warmth, affection and serenity. That is why we believe, together with For a Smile Onlus, that pet therapy can be to great help in dealing with the fears of these little ones. Scientific research has fully demonstrated this. Animals hear, understand and always know what to do, even when we run out of words. As For a Smile onlus, which we thank for this donation, says, it does not take much. One paw is enough. Here the outstretched paw can do and give so much ».

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