Why I Started The Holland Project
Everyone has a story to tell and mine is no different than many parents of a child with special needs. My name is Eileen Mitchell and I am the mother of two beautiful daughters, 26 and 23. My eldest daughter is diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease, a rare metabolic disorder. She transitioned to adult services from Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation School in Greenfield, NH in 2012. My dream was to create a program where my daughter and others could enjoy the healing benefits of animals in a safe environment. My younger daughter is an art student, an avid horseback rider and photographer. She has a unique way with animals, especially horses and has been working with our program since inception. We live with our horses, dogs, sheep, chickens and rabbits on Black Sheep Farm in Merrimac, MA.
Early on in my career after attending art school I worked for management consultant firms such as Bain and Company, Monitor Company, Coopers and Lybrand and other small start-up organizations which gave me a wealth of experience. In 1990 when my first child was born, my real journey began.
Having a child diagnosed with a disease that most doctors knew little about at the time was a challenge. She was not like any other case many doctors had seen. She was teaching us all about her disability.
In 1998, I helped establish the New England Chapter of the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation and held the position of VP and Treasurer for 3 years on a volunteer basis while working full time. I fundraised for the foundation, held support groups for parents and planned local symposiums for families. In the fall of 2001 I was asked by one of my daughter’s doctors to speak on a parent panel at The Annual New England Regional Genetic Group meeting on mitochondrial disease for 200 medical professionals.
Also in 2001 I was drawn to the human services field and returned to Lesley University where I earned a BS in Human Service Management.
Approaching the transition to adulthood can be a very anxious time for families of a child with special needs. While planning for my daughter's transition I realized that I wanted to plan programs that would help others as well as my daughter.
After reading the book The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson, I began to research alternative programs and potential residential facilities that utilize nature and animals. I found the idea of an agricultural community as a wonderful alternative to traditional group homes and day programs. For many individuals that become overwhelmed and over-stimulated in traditional settings, this seemed like a perfect alternative lifestyle.
The vision of The Holland Project is to offer creative opportunites for special needs teens and young adults that utilize nature, art and agriculture and the special bond with animals. Programs where all feel welcome, accepted and participate in meaningful work. We are committed to offer programs and seminars that extend out to families, caregivers and the community as an alternative healing center.
I have long been inspired by the poem “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley, 1987, which describes the emotional stages many special needs families find themselves experiencing, from landing in a place not planned, through acceptance and appreciation of the unexpected beauty of this new place. In keeping with our vision the name The Holland Project seemed to fit.
I have over 26 years experience as my daughter's medical and educational advocate. With that comes a wealth of knowledge that I would like to share with other families on this path.
I invite you to join us on this journey.
Founder, Executive Director
Raechel Blinderman, MSW, LICSW
My name is Raechel Blinderman and I am thrilled to be involved with The Holland Project. Through my work experience and education, I truly believe alternative therapies are the most effective way to reach various populations especially those with autism spectrum disorders. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree from Northeastern University, I was fortunate enough to get a job at Children's Hospital Boston running a creative arts program designed to provide therapeutic and creative interventions through the use of art for hospitalized children. Working with the children was so inspirational that I decided to pursue a masters degree in social work at Simmons College to further my clinical knowledge. Upon completion of the program, I was hired as a school adjustment counselor working with middle school students with a wide variety of emotional disabilities. I am currently a licensed clinical social worker and really love working with the adolescent population. I am really excited to be a team member for the Holland Project and look forward seeing all the therapeutic benefits our program participants will gain.
Megan has been riding horses since she was 7. She has owned and shown her horses for many years. After two years in Art school studying photography, she realizing that she wanted to work with animals and special needs individuals. She has been a volunteer with The Holland Project since inception. Megan is currently the barn manager, cares for our animals and is an integral member of our team as we plan our expansion.
Dr. Al Costanza, Ph.D.,CN Holistic Health & Counseling Education
Deborah Capuano, Holistic Massage & Therapies