Soulmates. Connecting souls

Bidirectional aid project between minors in residential care and abandoned animals with a similar situation

Photo of Souling
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Jonás Reguilón Liébana

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Man

Headquarters location: country

  • Spain

Headquarters location: city

Souling is located in the city of Madrid, although it develo

Where are you making a difference?

This project benefits both minors In Residential Care, as well as abandoned animals that live in animal shelters. In Spain 137,000 animals are abandoned annually. Besides, also in Spain, there are 40,000 children under the State guardianship, from these, around 14,000 live in institutions.

Website or social media url(s)

Date Started


Focus Areas

  • Fostering emotional intelligence and behavioural competences
  • Promote inclusivity
  • Re-imagining the role of pets in society

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €1mil - €5mil

Organisation Type

  • nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

Since 2015, Souling has been collaborating through Animal Assisted Therapy, with the public service that offers psichological support for children in Foster care providing support in these cases of special needs. However, we realized the number of children who did not even find that opportunity. In addition, from beginning to collaborate with animal protection associations, we look at the many parallels between this world . For that reason, from the beginning we believed in the potential that both populations had to help each and we knew that we only had to create spaces for them to meet so that magic could happened.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Age, or the fact of presenting some type of disability or health problem, makes many of these children see their chances of finding a home very limited. These cases are referred to in other English-speaking countries as "Hard to Place" and many of them see its adoption as something unattainable reinforcing their feeling of helplessness and their situation of abandonment. Many animals also find themselves in an analogous situation.

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Soulmates is designed to be carried out in 24 sessions divided into four phases: In the first phase, children learn to relate to an animal, understanding its nature and behavior and working aspects such as empathy, care, emotional bond and relating to their behavior and their education. In a second phase, they will know the situation of the animals of HOOPE, the reasons for their abandonment and their life history, their needs and their behaviors from a comprehensive perspective. In a third phase, each child will choose that animal from the protection center with which he has felt most identified, and the relationship and the affective bond with him will be worked on. In this way, each minor "sponsors" an animal, and, looking for their own capabilities and resources, will be proposed to improve their situation through concrete actions that increase their quality of life. In the fourth phase, the development of a campaign for the adoption of these animals. All this allows the child to both work their own life story and benefit from the interaction with the animal, as well as identify and start their own resources.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

In Spain, there are already some projects that take advantage of the benefits of bi-directional aid between people and animals. This project also takes advantage of the parallelisims between the life history of the animal and that of the minors, facilitating the identification between them. Many of these children accumulate long time of institutionalization, so they are always those who "receive" from others as if they have always something "missing" that has to be replaced. By proposing activities in which they are the ones that help others, they get in touch with these aspects of themselves: the value of being significant for another, which is necessary to feel loved. They go from being "needy people" to "necessary people".

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

This project involves a crucial change to the traditional approach of these cases as it produces a change of roles: The minors come from being the recipients of the intervention to be the actors, to be those that can help others, and thus, they develop skills and find in themselves the capacity of being useful, to feel able to do important things, improving their self-esteem.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

Animals Assisted Therapy has shown its benefits through many investigations. Each time it covers more extensive fields, for example, the use of agricultural farms as a basis to promote physical and mental health of people in cooperation with health authorities is increasing in several countries in Europe and the United States. In some countries this has been called GREEN CARE and these interventions include animal-assisted therapies, even though they do not have specific training. GREEN CARE includes several therapeutic strategies and includes assisted therapies with farm animals, horticultural therapy and in general therapies based on the performance of activities on farms but not exclusively restricted to the use of animals.

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

With this project we managed to help people and animals to use half of the resources. Being able to create more bidirectional assistance projects would generate lower costs for the public administration to solve the problems of abandonment of children and animals. A project that helps change social policies and join forces and institutions that work in parallel when we should work hand in hand. The children, after completing the project, become young activists who help change the world and improve the planet and have the support of Jane Goodall, whom they meet in person.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

It is a project that impacts people and animals, as well as the environment. The project is part of the Jane Goodall Institute in Spain and the children are in contact with her to tell them what they do, even getting to know her personally a year ago. Thanks to this they also carry out environmental activities and environmental protection, small activists. The project meets all the values that an entity may want, covering all the social problems that we find in a single and pioneering project.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

The first and second 2017-19 edition of this project has been executed thanks to the solidarity financing of Lush Spain through the sale of its charity Pot charity. The children who have participated have become experts who will now be part of the team, and they themselves teach other children. Creating training programs that favor social and labor insertion is one of our great objectives, removing these children from social exclusion.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

Is constituted by a psychotherapist expert in Animal Assisted Interventions who coordinates the project and directs the sessions and the processes of the minors, two technicians in IAA that are in charge of guiding and controlling the welfare of the animals, as well as two professionals in the field of animal protection of Hoope. The project is developed in the Animal Protection Center of Hoope and is supervised by Dirección General de la Familia y el Menor, of Comunity of Madrid.

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

We believe that with the development of this type of projects we can keep on demonstrating the benefits of bidirectional aid projects in which animals not only act as mere tools for intervention. We can contribute to that more and more Animal Assisted Therapy projects contemplate this perspective in their work benefiting not only people but also animals and generating an impact on the environment.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Purina page or contact

1 comment

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Photo of Celia Parra

Maravilloso proyecto!!! Cambiando el mundo de los animales y los niños ��