Nairi Krafian, a young Armenian-American Birthright volunteer is establishing a project called Oknooshoon in Armenia, which is literally a hybrid of the words help (oknoutyoun) and dog (shoun) in Armenian. As a pre-veterinary student who is passionate about both her homeland and animals, her goal is to improve the public perception, and in turn the quality of life, for rescued dogs in Armenia. Nairi has partnered with The Paros Foundation in order to introduce dog therapy in Yerevan, help provide education to improve the public perception of stray and rescued dogs and minimize their poor treatment.
Nairi will be in Armenia this summer for 11 weeks to introduce her Oknooshoon project. She will be collaborating with the Centaur Hippotherapy Center, where they train stray dogs as therapy animals, and the International Child Development Center (ICDC) and My Way socio-rehabilitation day care center, where they have programs for autistic youth. She hopes to create a sustainable animal therapy program for autistic children that will benefit the children, expose more of the Armenian community to animal therapy, and showcase the positive qualities of dogs to the human population. Furthermore, once the program has been refined, Nairi plans to also create a national standard for therapy animal certification, which will allow the practice of animal therapy to expand to other shelters. She will monitor the progress of her program though surveys given to the staff at both facilities, the parents of the children at ICDC, and the general public.
$5,300 is needed in order to fund this summer’s program. Costs include handler training education, dog training supplies, memory devices, PR materials, transportation between facilities, communication between involved parties, preventative medical care for the dogs, and hygiene supplies.
The following is a timeline for the Oknooshoon project:
May 29-June 16, 2017: Visit ICDC and Centaur, assess the facilities, introduce the program to staff and parents (of children at ICDC), and determine what qualities of the dogs would be suitable and therapeutic to which children. Buy necessary supplies. Assess dogs at Centaur and refine their training to suit the program.
June 19-July 7, 2017: Continue training dogs and handlers as needed. Slowly integrate dogs into ICDC, with highly supervised visits and trials, assessing the effectiveness of interactions between certain dogs and children or groups of children. Create a weekly schedule of animal therapy at ICDC accordingly.
July 10-August 4, 2017: Implement animal therapy schedule, continuously assessing and refining the program to ensure its continued success when I leave.
Fall 2017-Spring 2018 (in Boston): Assess and improve the pilot program. Create the standardized criteria and process for therapy animal certification. Complete independent study on animal therapy through the Occupational Therapy department at Tufts University. Expand PR and do outreach to more potential target facilities in Armenia (i.e. hospitals, orphanages, universities, war veterans, etc.)
Summer-Fall 2018 (return to Armenia): Have Centaur dogs undergo the official certification process. Expand certification availability to all shelters and provide training sessions and certification tests for dogs and handlers at all locations.
Short Term Impact
Long Term Impact
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