A lot can be said about a girl and her horse, but these two worked together to help survivors during the pandemic. While many of us felt paralysed with the barrage of change, these two felt mobilised to help survivors during COVID.

Meet Eleni, our ‘Survivor Experience Manager’ at the Freedom Hub, and this is her horse, Venus.



When Covid hit our nation last year, hospitality began to shut down. So our social enterprise cafes and events began to slow and we began to panic. Because building our social enterprise to fund 60% of our charity work was the goal and we achieved that by mid 2019. We never want to be fully self funded, because we don’t want to prevent donations from all the amazing people who want to partner in the vision to ‘end slavery in Australia and help survivors with their long term recovery’.

But then came 2020. As founder, I crunched the numbers night after night trying to work out how we could support the 70+ survivors in our care. How could we keep the payroll, the mental health specialists, and increase our workload to help survivors from giving up on their goals. For a while it all felt hopeless.

However, our tribe of followers, donors and philanthropists stepped in. They bridged the gap, while we waited to see if a charity was eligible for job-keeper and business grants being issued by the government. So this gave us a little more time to think about how we could continue to help survivors during the most trying of times.


Solutions found

It soon became clear that we needed to get the survivors online quickly. This meant they needed laptops and data. We will be forever be grateful to City of Sydney, City of Gold Coast and Mary McKillop Foundation for their donations toward this immediate need. Because this set us up to help survivors who needed the most care. These included 5 single mums who had to stay indoors with their newborns. With no family or friends to help them in our country, they were struggling.

Skipping the details of how hard it was to teach them to use Zoom over the phone, and troubleshoot computer issues with ESL clients ….. here is our heart warming story.



Eleni’s initial focus was to help survivors learn about Covid, what it was, keep them up to date with the daily changing restrictions, and help them stay positive about their future. Working from home Eleni ran a daily ‘Coffee Chat’ on zoom our survivors. The giggles and smiles on their faces when they saw each other in ‘gallery view’ for the first time was priceless. But when they met Venus and she came to the screen snorting and nudging, all of life’s problems seem to melt away. Who would of thought that a horse would love people through a screen! She became a highlight. Great friendships were formed online. And many little life lessons were learnt during what would be for many, an isolating season.


The Benefits of Equine Assisted Interactions

On weekends Eleni runs her own equine experiences business called, Sheez Like the Wind. As a ‘Certified Equine Interaction Practitioner ‘ her skills came to the rescue for our Freedom Hub survivors, as she engaged Venus into their zoom coffee chats. She would teach them how horses respond to tension and anxiety. (Did you know that horses respond to our body language and to our feelings or to the suppression of our feelings?) She would teach our clients methods of relaxation and show them how Venus responds to people. We are incredibly fortunate to have Eleni overseeing the care of all our survivors during the week, and now she can bring her weekend wellbeing programs to The Freedom Hub via zoom.

According to the World Health Organisation, mental health is”

a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make contributions to his or her community.

This is our goal at The Freedom Hub when we help survivors on their road to recovery. After all the trauma of their past slavery experience, their daily life is a constant struggle. (read more about the mental health of slavery survivors HERE.) So when COVID hit, there was a massive load added to their daily struggles. Meeting a horse online may not seem like a big deal to people who are health and strong, but when your everyday life is dark, it is bright moment to escape the troubles of life.


Check out this list of benefits:

  1. Building confidence and self-esteem
  2. Establishing trust in self and others
  3. Improving verbal and non-vernal communication
  4. Developing healthy relationships with others
  5. Understanding the value of strong leadership
  6. Establishing appropriate boundaries
  7. Problem-solving and conflict resolution
  8. Goal-setting and action-planning
  9. Gaining a deep sense of respect for self, family, other people, all living beings and our environment
  10. Understanding and managing emotions such as fear and anger
  11. Learning mindfulness to manage stress and anxiety
  12. Developing self-awareness to recognise past patterns and to regulate current behaviours
  13. Creating personal life changes by connecting with a true sense of identity
  14. Re-building self-worth and a sense of personal safety
  15. Regulating the nervous system and creating bodily awareness
  16. Finding a deep sense of motivation and resilience as a catalyst for personal growth
After reading this, it is easy to see how this simple interaction helps survivors. Now that restrictions are lifted we have been running more face to face workshops with Venus and other horses. One of our survivors said after a few sessions:

“It’s like I’m looking in the mirror and seeing myself for the first time”




If you would like to know more about the Survivor School Courses or how you can get involved as a volunteer, here is a brochure you can DOWNLOAD & READ.

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Other blogs you might enjoy:

What Freedom Means to a Slavery Survivor

Partnering to End Slavery