For Charlotte Paul, inner happiness can be found at her mini-farm in Mount Denson: Dragonfly Haven.
Paul, from Glooscap First Nation, developed the idea after seeing the mental health problems that many Indigenous people face. Specifically, she was inspired by her father who had been in the Indian Residential School System.
“He was living with a mental illness and PTSD, which led him to the use of alcohol and drugs for comfort,” Paul said. “He was so hurt inside and had no one or place to turn to.”
About five years ago, she decided to help those struggling with mental health by taking a social service program at NSCC. She got the idea to start a farm through a class assignment.
“My father’s love of animals — particularly the turkeys and chickens he raised — did wonder for his physical and mental health,” Paul said.
She chose the name, Dragonfly Haven, because of its connection to Indigenous people.
“In many Indigenous cultures the dragonfly represents the change in someone’s life: emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. A haven is a safe place, so the name of the farm basically means a safe place for healing and change,” said Paul.
Dragonfly opened last July, and Paul believes it not only brings happiness and hope to visitors but staff as well.
“I experienced many life-changing moments due to this farm,” said Paul.
Jess J Lutz and Tasia Schofield were recently hired to run the mini farm’s Facebook page.
“I have lived on a farm for the past 23 years of my life and have always had horses of my own,” said Lutz. “Being someone who lives with depression and anxiety, my animals are very much a part of my healing and it seems I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
Paul knew Lutz when she was studying at NSCC. After hearing about Lutz’s experience, Paul found her a job placement.
“I know she loves animals, and I hope that working on the farm can be helpful to ease her social anxiety,” said Paul.
And, for Lutz, it has.
“Working on the farm really helps with my anxiety and depression,” said Lutz. “Charlotte had been a wonderful mentor to me and I look forward to doing more of this kind of work in the future.”
As a mini-farm, Dragonfly features miniature animals. In developing this idea, Paul used what she learned in the classroom.
“We have all miniature breed farm animals on our farm to be used as emotional support,” said Paul. “We have guinea pigs, bunnies, mini pigs, goats, horses and even a donkey.”
Last summer, the farm welcomed 50 or more visitors per day, depending on the day of the week.
As the farm grows, Paul plans to expand to include a boarding home and a therapeutic campground. She wants to hire more people in the future, especially those who have mental health issues.
“I want to help everyone to find happiness, hope, and well-being,” Paul said. “Our miniature animals, due to their unique animal nature, act like a mirror for our inner selves.”