M’Lani Basson

As an art and psychology student, M’Lani Basson had her heart set on specialising in art therapy but, having grown up with horses on a farm, the minute she heard of equine-assisted therapy, her heart skipped a beat. After university, Basson volunteered at an animal-assisted therapy centre in Scotland, an experience that gave her all the tools she needed to start Amado, her Paarl-based non-governmental organisation. Amado provides animal-assisted therapy to 240 special-needs children who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it. Harnessing the powerful bond between humans and horses, Basson helps children to walk for the first time, to speak after years of trauma-induced silence, to care for themselves and, ultimately, to participate fully in society. Basson is a workhorse herself, juggling therapy and a trauma internship with raising funds and a family, but she doesn’t complain. The joy the children find in her horses she feels in her heart.

— Lu Larche