Founded in 2018, The Eden Empathy Initiative (NPC) is an after-school programme and therapy provider based in Knysna, South Africa.  Our multi-part programme combines an exciting new mix of animal-related education, activities and therapy – all aimed at unlocking and developing empathy, emotional intelligence and coping skills.

Our aim is to create a replicable, measurable model that can be implemented anywhere in the world.

Whilst our programme’s focus is on young children living in communities with the greatest need for intervention, our impact extends beyond the children – to their families, animals, and the community at large.

By offering a grade-wide school programme, we are able to assess and identify children and families in need of our support and/or further assistance from the organisations in our Empathy Network.

We also offer private animal assisted play therapy for children, and equine assisted therapy for children, families, adult individuals and couples.

Our Story

We were initially drawn to working with children through our concern over the increase in organised dog fighting in disadvantaged communities.  The idea was to provide education and training to children, while fostering healthy relationships with animals.  This was to be our means of “phasing out” animal abuse.  The therapeutic nature of our activities would have been a bonus.

However, it soon became apparent that in order to really help the animals, we MUST first help our people – in meaningful, sustainable ways.  After all, the suffering of our animals is but a symptom of the suffering of our people.  And this thought in mind, we realised that we could, and should, be doing so much more!  Thus, our focus shifted from helping animals to helping humans through animals, providing long-term and short-term benefits for both.

Our approach of “helping people first” has opened some rather exciting doors, with local and international interest, input and support. As a result, the concept and objectives of The Eden Empathy Initiative (NPC) have grown and developed to a point where we believe that we will not only make a considerable difference in the communities where we operate – but also inspire change in how we, as South Africans, view and treat one another.

Making it work, together.

Meet Our Team

How We Do It

The Eden Empathy Initiative (NPC) is the realisation of various dreams, brought together by a set of rather unusual circumstances – and a very special pony named Cody! It’s hard work, but we absolutely love what we do, using every opportunity to help children to discover their strengths and to teach them compassion. While there are many sad stories and difficult situations to deal with, we have each other’s support. Having the right team (human and animal) is critical to our impact and our sustainability. We therefore consider ourselves incredibly blessed to work together as colleagues and friends – learning and growing as individuals and as a team.

Our Ambassador - Cody the Brave

Cody’s story is simply remarkable.  Even though owner Karen thought he wouldn’t be up to being a therapy pony, he continues to amaze us with his willingness to participate.  He is particularly drawn to children who have been through trauma. They share moments that no textbooks can explain…

We call it “the Cody magic”.

Many hearts make love work!

Professional Collaborators & Sponsors