From tragedy and tik, Atlantis man finds his purpose in rescuing horses

Despite facing significant personal hurdles, Joshua Swarts has made it his mission to look after the needs of neglected and abused horses in his neighbourhood.

Joshua Swarts with a skinny horse he is rehabilitating at his NPO Horse Pals Atlantis. Picture: Graig-Lee Smith/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - A local ‘horse whisperer’ from Atlantis, outside of Cape Town, is on a mission to rescue as many horses as he can.

Joshua Swarts is an animal lover who couldn’t stand to see how injured and abused horses didn’t receive the care they so desperately needed.

Swarts was visibly excited as he told Eyewitness News about his latest patient, a skinny horse who’s in rehab at his Atlantis organisation.

“We have had him in our facility for the last week. And we want to make him healthy and look like a horse again. That is actually part of our mission. We are going to fix him up, make him nice and make him a horse again.”

Swarts founded the non-profit organisation (NPO) Horse Pals Atlantis three years ago after an incident he witnessed in his neighbourhood.

“One day I was standing in my neighbourhood and I realised kids were surrounding a horse. The one jumped on his back and started hitting this beautiful animal and that is when I realised, man I need to do something, I need to do something for this animal and I also need to do something for these kids.”

In many ways, in that moment he saw himself in those young people, taking out their frustrations on a helpless animal.

“The reason I am such a drive behind this organisation and I am working so hard for this organisation to help the animals, to help the youth is that many years ago I was addicted to a drug called tik. Many people know it as crystal meth.”

Purposeless and depleted, he knew if he didn’t make a change, he would wind up dead or in prison.

“I was speaking to God and I said ‘God I know I’ve got a purpose on this earth. Just show me the purpose, show me what I can do for you. Use me as a vessel.’ While I was standing there, God told me ‘Josh start Horse Pals in Atlantis. Start an NPO. Show the youth and teach the youth how to look after animals’.”

Recovery from addiction is rarely an easy road to walk - setbacks and tragedies are doubly dangerous for the addict in recovery.

And two years ago, the most intense tragedy imaginable struck, changing his life forever.

“Two years ago, I lost my son, my only son. I lost him due to gang violence. And I was so devastated when I lost my only son. But I realised I have also got a purpose. I can’t go back. I need to move forward. I need to be strong.”

Helping and rescuing horses is not only Swarts’s passion, but he believes it to be his life’s mission and he wants young people to discover and pursue theirs, even if it means they start small.

“I just want to encourage the youth, I know we live in difficult times but don’t let circumstances get you under, man. Please be focused, be positive, set goals believe in God and achieve what God wants you to achieve.”

It’s clear Swarts’ faith is at the centre of his life and he credits it with getting him through some of the worst challenges he’s faced - through the fire of addiction and loss, to recovery and purpose.

“We all on this earth have a purpose and if you believe your purpose is to be a positive impact in your community, or a positive impact around the world, live your purpose and achieve it.”

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