Hunkapi Programs founder and executive director Terra Schaad is in the African country of Kenya on a two-week mission of mercy. (David Minton/Progress Staff Photographer)

Hunkapi Programs founder and Executive Director Terra Schaad swapped her saddle for a plane ticket Kenya, Africa, for two weeks to help residents in crisis.

Schaad left for Nairobi, the country’s capital, with  50 other physicians, dentists and first responders to provide medical attention and therapy to more than 2,000 people in impoverished areas.

“There’s quite a discrepancy in income level and it’s westernized over there,” Schaad said. “What was surprising to me to see how westernized it is, but then also within the same city to see over a million people living literally in slums.” 

Although poverty is the largest issue impacting the area, Schaad and her team is looking to tackle a plethora of other issues. 

“I know from consultations with the trauma team that’s going over, that there is a  huge number of incidents of sexual abuse within families,” Schaad said.

“There’s rape. We’ll be dealing with a high prevalence of glue and jet fuel usage in terms of a way to get high and we’ll also be working with children that are kicked out of their homes at a very young age. I’m learning that most males are kicked out around age 9.” 

Schaad first heard about these issues through Mission of Hope International after another trauma therapist asked her for donations.

“I respect her work and said that we would donate but also that if they needed additional trauma support, I would be open to going,” Schaad said. 

Not long after offering her support, Schaad found herself inking an application and sending her credentials to Mission of Hope.

“I explained what we do here on the farm and that I work with first responders because a piece of my role will be to help support the physicians, the doctors and the dentists that are going in their experience working with such poverty and the traumatic effects of experiencing other people’s trauma vicariously,” she said. 

Although Schaad has made a name for herself locally through her equine therapy programs for patients with ALS as well as first responders and anyone looking for therapeutic riding, her background lies within trauma therapy. 

“I am a trauma therapist but here at the farm, I bring that trauma therapist’s role into the arena with the horses,” she said. "I worked professionally and with horses, I’ve trained at a professional level and then I went to school to become a therapist.

“My first love was horses. I got to learn how to build a safe and healthy relationship with a horse that’s transferable to people and being able to tie those relationship skills and those regulatory skills transfers into being a therapist to balance out and create a safe environment of learning and openness.” 

She admitted she’ll miss the farm during her absence. 

“I will worry about it and I will miss it,” she said. “I have a lot of animals here that I consider my children and I have staff here that I consider being the little flock that I need to take care of. I will miss the animals and I’ll miss the people that are here because they’re a big part of my life.”

Although she will miss her animals, her focus will be solely on aiding as many people as she can by teaching them healthy coping mechanisms. 

“One of the basic things that we’re going to be teaching them is called Box breathing where we teach them how to slow down and breathe in for a count of four, exhale for a count of four and then hold,” Schaad said.

“That will just hopefully slow down the impulse response towards aggression, towards the flight or maybe towards the impulse to use a drug and choosing a healthy response.” 

Breathing techniques are not the only coping mechanism that Schaad hopes to teach people. 

“We’re going to be doing a lot of art therapy with them to help them envision and identify resources that could help them create a different life for themselves,” she said. “Maybe they want to learn to read, or maybe they will want an education because education is different over there or maybe we can help them identify how to survive.

“Because if we can’t stay there long term it turns into, how can we help them survive at this moment and identify how they can get to the next bridge.” 

Before leaving, Schaad also met a girl online who was a huge fan of hip-hop artist Lizzo’s clothing line and music. Schaad planned to meet this girl upon her arrival in Kenya to surprise her with some new raglans. 

Schaad hopes to not only touch the lives of those she encounters but also learn more about Kenyan culture. 

“I think anytime you travel, you want to bring back a piece of understanding that there are other people in this world that are functioning in a different way than us and I think it sheds light on how much how abundant things are here in the United States,” she said. 

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