Military veterans suffering from PTSD will have the chance to travel to South Africa

Military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) will have the chance to travel to South Africa and work with endangered wildlife as part of their therapy thanks to a grant from Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC.

UK-based charity Veterans for Wildlife (V4W) has secured funding from Lord Ashcroft for its innovative Footprints of Hope program, which will see veterans care for baby rhinos orphaned by poaching as part of a structured series of activities.

V4W CEO and former Royal Marine Wesley Thomson said Footprints of Hope was based on the proven concept of animal-assisted therapy (AAT), in which pets and other animals have been used to help people suffering from exposure to trauma.

“By putting the needs of animals, often in a worse position than the participants, first, veterans will be able to gain perspective on their own lives and to find a sense of purpose in caring for something other than themselves,”

Mr Thomson said.

“In this respect the program will be similar to the life veterans knew in the military, where a high emphasis is placed on the ‘buddy’ system, where people are taught to look after each other.”

In the Footprints of Hope program the ‘buddies’ are juvenile rhinos whose mothers have been slaughtered by poachers. About a thousand rhinos are killed every year in South Africa to feed a market in south-east Asia where rhino horn is prized as a status symbol and for unfounded medicinal qualities.

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