Dr. Sunday Agbonika is pioneering Animal-Assisted Interventions in Nigeria with a specific goal of helping children with Autism.
In this 38th episode of Therapy Dog Talk, I spoke with Dr. Sunday Agbonika, a Veterinary Surgeon, dog trainer, and 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow, about his groundbreaking work in Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) in Nigeria, focusing on helping children with Autism. Dr. Sunday shares his journey of discovering AAI through a short documentary by Nathan Selove, which inspired him to bring this life-changing therapy to Nigeria.
Throughout our conversation, we explore the challenges Dr. Sunday faced due to the stigma surrounding children with special needs in Nigeria. We discuss how he decided to partner with special needs centers to make a broader impact, rather than working with individual families. Dr. Sunday introduces us to his lovable therapy animals, including Tish and Bishop, who adore their work with children.
We also touch on the incredible support Dr. Sunday received from the international AAI community and the joy he experiences seeing the children’s lives transform with the help of his therapy animals. Finally, we delve into the impact of the Mandela Washington Fellowship on Dr. Sunday’s work and his successful organization of the first intra-African AAI conference.
By the end of this episode, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for Dr. Sunday’s passion and dedication to helping children with special needs in Nigeria through the power of Animal-Assisted Interventions.
In this episode, we discuss …
- How Dr. Sunday discovered animal-assisted interventions through a short documentary.
- Which animals Dr. Sunday partners with and what his dogs Tish and Bishop love about being Therapy Dogs.
- How Dr. Sunday is bringing together his community and international leaders in AAI.
Key moments you won’t want to miss:
- [01:05] Dr. Sunday discovers a documentary about Autism Service Dogs that begins his interest in Animal-Assisted Interventions.
- [04:22] Challenges arise in bringing Animal-Assisted Interventions to Nigeria due to stigma surrounding children with special needs.
- [05:58] Dr. Sunday decides to focus on Animal Assisted Therapy through special needs centers since finding children through families is difficult.
- [08:14] Dr. Sunday works with various animals, including a turtle, rabbits, and dogs Tish and Bishop.
- [09:25] The international community shows interest and support for Dr. Sunday’s work in Nigeria.
- [10:36] Dr. Sunday enjoys seeing the happiness on the children’s faces and hearing positive feedback from teachers and caregivers.
- [12:58] Dr. Sunday shares his childhood connection with his German Shepherd, Skipper.
- [13:52] The Mandela Washington Fellowship helps change-making African youths by placing them in universities and connecting them with communities.
- [14:36] Dr. Sunday participates in Animal Assisted Therapy at Equi-librium, an equine center for children with special needs in Pennsylvania.
- [20:47] The 2nd Annual Conference on Animal Assisted Interventions is set for August 3-4, featuring speakers from Green Chimneys and Nathan Selove, creator of the inspiring documentary.
I hope you enjoy this episode as much as I do. Give it a watch or a listen and then let me know in the community which part you found the most helpful!
Mentioned in this episode:
- The 2nd Annual conference on Animal Assisted Interventions and Assistance Animals 2022
- Dr. Elizabeth Omerod
- Green Chimneys
- Lehigh University hosts emerging world leaders
- Mandela Washington Fellowship
- Nathan and Sylvia (a story of an autism service dog and her boy)
- Nigerian vet makes history for humans and animals across Africa
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