One of the first questions I always get asked is why not choose a different name?
We chose the name God Unlimited Outdoor Therapy (Gul) because, as a small group of Christians, we firmly believed that if we set out with faith and hard work to serve others we would make a real difference in the lives of people inside our communities - we were right.
In 2003 Gul formed with a simple vision, knowing that being in the outdoors is good for you, let's enable as many people as possible to get outdoors. We began following the collective passions of our group and offering horse riding and outdoor pursuits for people of all ages. It soon became obvious that we were really onto something. Our ideas and provision were having an incredible effect and in 2006 Gul was born, but we needed to do more...
Our home site, Riverside,
As it was when we first moved in!
Today Gul is a champion of outdoor therapies and their use as a tool to overcome significant obstacles in the well being of individual. We are proud to have served over 3000 people in the last 10 years. Our team of 20 staff and 30 volunteers faithfully work alongside people of all ages, in all weathers because we see, day in day out, that the work we do improves self confidence, teaches new skills and enables people to better cope with the world outside our gates. Gul has an open door policy and a multi disciplinary team, and as such its provision is not targeted at any one group. Gul is open to all ages and abilities, all faiths and backgrounds. Gul's youngest beneficiaries are under 2 and its eldest are in their late 80's. 69% of Gul users are women, 29% of beneficiaries are over 25 and 71% attend Gul with mental health diagnoses.
So what does Gul actually do?
Gul is an Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) centre and since 2012 Gul has been a registered Alternative Provider of Education in Wiltshire. 60% of Gul activity is horse based, 20% is other outdoor learning and the remaining 20% is adult focused provision at other sites. In term time Gul works with over 50 schools in southern Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset to provide alternative activities for young people who are struggling in main stream education.
Typically a young person who attends is falling behind their peers and has been identified by the school special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) as needing extra help. They contact Gul, we meet with the young person and assess their needs and agree a plan to help them. Every person who attends is different but an average session is a half day spent 1:1 with one of Gul's team. During this time they work with our horses, managing stables, grooming and preparing to ride before taking part in a riding lesson or hack where they will work towards riding certificates or awards. The young person will typically attend Gul for an academic year before transitioning back to mainstream school. Central to the success of Gul is the relationship between the therapists and the beneficiaries which builds confidence and trust in the individuals attending and eventually allows them to transition out of Gul's care.
Don't just take our word for it...
"In agreement with his school, our son needed equine therapy to help him deal with his emotions more effectively. He needed help in gaining the confidence so that he could more freely express himself. Over the course of the year that our son attended Gul he has grown in confidence considerably (with other children attending therapy sessions as well as with the staff at Gul) and has also thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor activities (regardless of the weather). He has especially enjoyed earning rosettes when he has achieved various skill levels and has been able to try his hand at activities he may not otherwise have done such as woodwork (where he's made a bird box and stool), building campfires and learning how to light them (as well as cooking bacon sarnies and toasting marshmallows on them!), learning how to look after horses and the equipment they use as well as riding them.
Its been a pleasure to see our son grow in confidence and to see the smile on his face when he talks about all he's been up to at Gul!"
In the last 12 months, in response to incredible demand for our services, Gul has grown hugely. The organisation is much larger than our small community beginnings and now serves over 150 people each week and works with over 50 local schools, 4 councils and lots of local services and charities. In 2006 Gul started with 3 ponies, no staff and a small rented facility. That year we were thrilled to help over 100 people. In 2019 Gul owns two facilities and is in partnership with two more, the charity employs 20 local people and as of October has served over 400 individuals and provided more than 25,000 hours of therapy services.
But we aren't finished yet....
With your help Gul plans to expand its service even wider. By purchasing an additional 50 hours of therapy time each week Gul can serve an additional 300 individuals through the course of 2020/2021. To reach these individuals Gul plans to expand its provision to areas in which it does not yet have a presence but who are still within or just outside its current catchment area. A map of Gul's catchment area(black circle), current operational areas (green dots), and target areas (blue dots) are shown below.
Employing a qualified councilor with the correct equine qualifications to allow them to use Equine Assisted Therapy is a tricky and costly business, but Gul has a great reputation and as such, has a number of candidates keen to join the team. What we need is seed funding to help us get over the dent in cash flow that a new member of staff makes. It will cost Gul £30,000 each year to hire the staff Gul needs, and we are confident this will be fully costed and sustainable inside 6 months. Gul is seeking to raise £10,000 from this crowd funding scheme to fund the first 3 months of salaries while we push into new areas and find new people to help and raise the next round of monies we need. Heading into the next year, the new team will be a part of the Gul family and will be sustained by the charity's day to day activities.
If you can help us please donate and if you can't afford to give money, then please help us by sharing our post on social media and telling your friends both real and digital, about our incredible work.