Vieques is taking part in something fantastic, new, and promising. The children of this island are the first in all of Puerto Rico to formally receive Humane Education lessons in school.
Since the beginning, JUNTOS has been filled with expectations and motivation, but most of all, hope. Working together towards a common goal, JUNTOS has achieved more than expected. What started as a one-week workshop, lead to the integration of Humane Education lessons in Science, Social Studies and Health classes in five of Vieques public schools starting this semester.
During these past 3 months with the support of the community, teachers, social workers and school principals, we have been able to reach every school and Headstart centers in Vieques. Our concept of Humane Education is fresh, enthusiastic, dynamic and based on the culture, history and lifestyle our students identify with. Students have embraced this approach and are inspired to learn more.
We all know of many forms of cruelty, violence and disrespect all living beings are victims of here. Children and youth have spoken of what they live every day, and they are not happy with this. They want to see change, more so they want to be part of this change.
One of the most visited schools was the German Rickehoff High School. Students attended a presentation on careers related to animals, which provided them with many alternatives for those who have an interest in animals but are not sure what profession is right for them. Including ideas of businesses they could develop here in Vieques and contribute to the community’s needs. Also the entire school took part in an intensive animal cruelty workshop in which they became Animal Cruelty Investigators and learned the different forms of cruelty and discussed ways to prevent it. The workshop lead to an activity called “El Tenderete” in which every student spoke up for animals and created t-shirts with messages against animal cruelty. They were truly inspired and created outstanding artwork.
Another topic strongly emphasized was bite prevention. Every student from Headstart to Kinder received an orientation and participated in a fun and exciting workshop. The Milivi Center had a week-long workshop in which the children participated in games, arts and crafts and story reading allusive to being kind to animals. This week ended with their own “Tenderete” as w ell and had the chance to bring their pets to the activity and share with their classmates how they care for them. We all had an amazing time.
In addition to Humane Education, the children made a visit to the elderly center. Participants received an orientation on the benefits of pets in lives of elders. It was a heartwarming experience, as many shared memories of special pets that helped them through life challenges. They also enjoyed the company of Emmet who brightened their smiles with his kind presence.
An invitation to Radio Vieques allowed us to share our program with the community. This also gave me the opportunity to meet other groups and community leaders who aspire for a better future.
The warm welcomes received from the children who participated in the Playa Grande summer program were enough to lead me to believe that the experience was important to them. They would come running up to me and say “you came back!”. At one school Emmet and I were swarmed by energetic children, proudly remembering what they learned during the program.
These past months have been busy and intense. There have been many requests for more lessons, workshops and activities that have not yet been fulfilled. In no way can these be ignored since everywhere I go I receive a reminder when a child runs up to me and ask, “when are you coming back?” To many I can say “see you in January”. Some may have to wait a bit, but one thing we can all look forward to, is that every child in Vieques will receive Humane Education and together we will all be part of the change.
This semester will be great, as there is so much enthusiasm, faith, and hope in this program; only positive things can grow from it. I truly appreciate all the teachers and school directors who have embraced the program. I look forward to seeing my students again and of course in great company of Emmet, the dog with the “locks” as they kindly refer to him.