By Carlette Jewell, Youth Programs Coordinator
Before I joined the team at SICSA, I was an art teacher. I spent an equal amount of time teaching drawing as I did guiding youth on accepting themselves and each other. This was great practice for my current job as a Humane Educator. Humane Education is about inspiring and empowering people to live with empathy and compassion.
At SICSA, I offer several programs with these goals in mind. Children learn safe and appropriate interaction with animals, and they have opportunities to help our animals through socialization and service projects. I give tours, lead games and exercises that engage children to think critically about the way humans interact with animals and each other. I visit schools, throw birthday parties, host movie nights, and read picture books always with the purpose of inspiring empathy, and providing an enjoyable time for our furry friends and visitors to SICSA. In my time at SICSA, I’ve led dozens of youth programs, and I hear the same questions during almost every program:
- Can we pet the cats in Kitty City?
We love for people to come in and socialize with our pets. It helps them become more adoptable, reduces stress, and makes their stay at SICSA more enjoyable.
- Is this animal a boy or a girl?
Kids really want to know animals as individuals. They want to know their name, their story, their identity. These young people want to identify with the animals in our care, and they develop emotional connections with the animals and appreciate their success when they are adopted. We are happy to help youth in our programs better understand the animals and their paths to forever homes.
- Is this dog here because of abuse?
Frequently, children come to SICSA with expectations of tragedy. They want to hear the hard luck story of the animals. Sometimes we know the story, and sometimes we don’t. Fortunately, these types of tragic stories are few and far between. Many of our residents are beloved pets that have been surrendered by their former owners due to an inability to care for the pet (typically because of financial or personal issues).
- What happened to his tail?
Kids always notice a cropped tail. It is encouraging to me that children are observant and concerned about humane issues like this. The goal of humane education is not to tell people what to think, but to prompt critical thinking that can shape future humane behavior. I love when the kids lead the discussion.
- What’s that thing in the ceiling?
It’s an odor absorber. I like to use this question as a jumping off point for observation and discussion of all the environmental enrichment we provide at SICSA to keep our pets safe, comfortable, happy, and healthy.
I can turn almost any question into a discussion of how we work at SICSA to be kind to animals, as an example of compassion, or an exercise in empathy, and my hope is that 90 minutes at a time, I am helping to create a kinder future.
For more information about SICSA’s Humane Education programs, please visit www.sicsa.org/youth.