Kent’s Alkham Valley Community Project has been awarded a £47k National Lottery grant.
The centre, near Dover, provides carriage driving, riding and horticulture for disabled and disadvantaged children and adults.
The grant will buy a second wheelchair-accessible carriage and two driving ponies, and help to fund a third member of staff.
“We jumped thorough hoops to get it!” says Jo Murrel, project manager at Alkham Valley.
“We had to fill in a complicated form, make a film of our activities, go to London to prove to a committee of people that riding and carriage driving for disabled people was a worthy cause, then persuade local people to vote for us.
“The support from local businesses has been amazing.”
Ms Murrel says that proving the carriage’s value was the easiest part.
“It’s so incredibly popular, across a whole range of special needs children and adults,” she said.
“More recently we’ve had people with physical difficulties driving the carriage, including a five year-old boy with spina bifida who’s paralysed from the waist down.”
She said they also are in touch with the services charity Help for Heroes, because they believe carriage driving might benefit injured soldiers.
Ms Murrel is also looking for volunteers: “We don’t get nearly as may as we’d like, which is a shame because local horsey people would really get something out of spending a couple of hours a week helping less fortunate people to enjoy something that they love.”
For more information or to volunteer, see www.avcp.co.uk or call 0781 666 4529.