Getting The Herd Back Together

One of the biggest challenges of the last year has been people not being able to get together. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and CDC recommendations, many have skipped holidays, postponed celebrations, and missed out on time spent with family and friends. In addition, connecting with co-workers has been moved online, and while Zoom meetings and conference calls have gotten the job done, it’s just not quite the same. 2020 brought several changes to the Camino a Casa clinical team including working remotely, telehealth appointments with clients, and the integration of several new staff members.

“We used to do lots of potlucks and fun activities together, but the pandemic really limited what we could do this past year, as well as put pressure on us doing things virtually,” said Beth Zacher Burke, Camino a Casa’s Clinical Program Manager.

Thanks to COVID precautions, vaccinations, and a decline in positive cases, most Camino a Casa staff are now back on campus. To help with the transition, the team decided to have some fun – in person!

“We’ve never done this before, but basically we felt we needed a mini retreat to bring our entire team together,” said Burke. “Our kids do equine therapy every week so we thought it would be fun if our equine therapist, Corey Cardenas, lead us through some team building activities so we could have some fun together and see what the kids experience.”

So, on a recent cool, clear afternoon, Corey brought her horses to campus to lead the group – a mix of clinicians and direct care staff, about 15 people – through two activities, with a focus on team building.

The first activity involved the entire group working together as one. Participants were tasked with getting themselves and one of the horses across a portion of the field, about 100 yards. The catch – participants were not allowed to step on the ground. Think the “Floor is Lava” game. The team was forced to use props to step on as they simultaneously guided the horse.

“In this scenario the horse plays the role of the unknown element,” said Cardenas. “You have to pay attention to the horse, regulate your own emotions, and communicate.”

After completing the activity, the team discussed the process including challenges, communication, and how the activity was similar to real life situations they face when dealing with youth and families.

“Sometimes we get caught up in the process. This exercise really helps break it down and simplify; this is where we are, this is our goal, here is how we get there. Just like when communicating with clients and/or parents,” said Cardenas.

The second activity broke the team into smaller groups. Participants took turns leading a horse while blindfolded relying only on directions from other members for guidance. This activity focused on trust, working together, and open-honest communication.

After more discussion and reflection, everyone agreed the event was a success.

“It was an amazing experience getting to connect with both my co-workers and the horses,” said Edna Marquez, a Camino a Casa Clinician. “We got to problem solve through games and trust/rely on one another. Truly a great day which I think all teams should experience.”

Courtney Markowitz, another Camino a Casa Clinician agreed, “We learned a lot about ourselves as team members and about communication while trying to manage multiple tasks and stressful events at once. This relates to the teamwork we do daily in supporting the youth we treat at Camino a Casa.”

Cardenas said the morning seemed to bring a sense of renewed purpose, “It was a great morning. Horses do self-reflection and the thing that was really apparent is this group is tight. It was obvious everyone is passionate about the work they do. It was kind of a celebration of what the Camino a Casa team is a part of and their greater purpose.”

Do you have a passion for helping youth and families reconnect and find joy again? Join the Camino a Casa team and you’ll have more than a job, you’ll have a purpose! Browse available positions here.



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