This Farm Helps Kids and Animals Heal Each Other
Abuse leaves a scar – sometimes visible, more frequently hidden. Neglect is an unrelenting force that crushes the spirit. The Forget Me Not Farm is a place where a unique group of people and animals work together to help address both of these critical issues and demonstrate the wonders that can be accomplished by an approach based on compassion.
Since its inception in 1992, Forget Me Not Farm has helped thousands of at-risk children and youth break the cycle of abuse. A program of the Sonoma Humane Society, the Farm offers animal-assisted and horticultural therapeutic activities that provide a haven for children, plants and animals to bond, learn, and heal with one another. The farm was founded by Carol Rathman who saw it as a model for children exposed to violence to engage with animals who have histories of abuse and neglect.
"Mom started it as an intervention for child abuse," explained Carol's son Dan, the Director of the farm. "She realized that there was a connection between the cycle of violence that happens with people who abuse animals, and the cycle of violence that gets perpetuated against humans." The idea was to teach children to be compassionate and caring through working with animals who have also traveled a difficult path.
Odessa Gunn, a former professional cyclist and now a Board Vice President, has been volunteering at the farm for over a decade. Her mission in life is to help animals and the Forget Me Not Farm supports her passion because all of the animals that live there have been rescued. Their stories can often be as painful as the ones of the children who visit.
Odessa feels that bringing the farm animals and children together in a comfortable and caring environment is a key to success. The farm works with 500 to 800 kids a year, mostly from group homes, and more often than not they have been shown very little warmth and compassion in their short lives. But grooming and tending to the animals seems to open up these kids and teaches them about compassion and love. These children and animals were all rescued from various bad situations—and they end up "rescuing" each other as well.
"I believe compassion is indeed something that needs to be taught," Odessa says. "If you have any type of influence on any child, just lead by example, show compassion for all living creatures. Even the bugs!"
Find out more about their great work at: https://forgetmenotfarm.org/
Learn more about the Humane Society at: https://humanesocietysoco.org/
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