A New Start for Veterans and Animals

26 April 2023

We often think a rescue dog’s life is made better by people spending time with them, but often that help extends both ways. Community Bank Samford was thrilled to lend a paw to both shelter animals and a group of veterans, by providing a grant to Happy Paws Happy Hearts Foundation (HPHH). The grant sponsored five veterans to undertake the Foundation’s 12-week In-Shelter Intensive program.

Happy Paws Happy Hearts provides unique animal therapy that creates positive social connections between isolated Australians and rescue animals. Participants learn new skills in animal behaviour, training, and enrichment concepts, with the Intensive program providing them with increased confidence, skills, quality of life and vocational pathways.

Veterans who benefitted from Community Bank Samford’s grant attended weekly onsite training at RSPCA Qld’s Dakabin Animal Care Centre to work directly with rescue animals. They also continued their learning from home via videos, activities, and live stream sessions.

“Thanks to funding from organisations such as Community Bank Samford, we can make our programs available in more regional areas where we know there are people and animals in need of a helping paw,” Partnerships and Grants Manager, Felicity Hibbins said.

“Many veteran participants come to us struggling with a transition out of service roles. PTSD is a common diagnosis affecting their lives every day. HPHH is a safe space to learn something new and see a future beyond the past.”

One veteran in this program was Jenny whose positive experience lead her to further train as a HPHH volunteer to help other participants.

 “The program has changed my life. It has really changed my outlook on things,” she said. 

Another participant formed a close bond with a large dog named Bob. Initially, Bob was very nervous and wary of people, but began to let his guard down with this veteran. By the end of the session, Bob crawled into the veteran’s lap and fell asleep. Such interactions help participants build confidence and feel they are making a difference, whilst at the same time helping an animal in need.

“This grant allowed veterans to easily enrol in and access the Intensive program without any financial barriers, directly changing lives for the better for both rescue animals and veterans. Thank you Community Bank Samford!” Felicity said.

Previous participants of the program have gained improvements in their psychological well-being, and life management skills. They also reported an increased sense of connection with themselves, their families, and the broader community.

Each week, the amazing team at Happy Paws Happy Hearts connects with over 450 people overcoming mental health challenges and individuals living with disabilities. Their inspiring work creates fur-ever friends across seven locations nationwide.

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