Dear Friends of Juntos,
After a full summer of Juntos activity we now head into the school year at full throttle! We have quite a schedule! Juntos is presently in Escuela Playa Grande covering 2nd through 5th grade plus an additional group of Montessori students. At Academia Adventista Juntos has its own classroom and every student, grades K through 8 receives humane education. At Maria Simons elementary we are covering 2nd through 5th grade in addition to the special ed students. At the middle school, 20 de Septiembre we are with the 6th graders and at Adrienne Serrano, 4th through 6th. In addition, we have five active after school clubs! All total, around 300 students will be receiving a full course in humane education. I’m not sure when Letty, our tireless humane education teacher, plans to sleep, but she is very excited!
There is no doubt in my mind that Humane Education as a teaching method works to develop empathy, compassion and a deeper understanding of our world and all its inhabitants both human and non human. Letty provides the students with the tools they need to come to their own conclusions on issues and to make intelligent choices and decisions. This is mighty empowering to these children! It seems weekly that Letty regales me with stories and incidences that attest to the worthiness of the program.
~ a boy with a history of disciplinary problems joins the Juntos club. On a recent trip to the states with his family he discovers five abandoned cats not doing well. He takes them in and convinces his father to bring them to the local shelter!
~ Often Letty gets calls from parents who, while driving with their kids, come upon an emaciated horse tied out without water or a litter of feral puppies on the side of the road. The Juntos kids are no longer comfortable ignoring situations like these. They feel compelled to do something to help.
~One girl with serious anxiety issues joined a Juntos Club a year ago. In the beginning it wasn’t easy. After several months however she became much calmer. As a club member she works with animals, visits the shelter, a riding stable, a sustainable farm, learns about the oceans, etc. Making these connections with animals and nature has helped (and continues to help) her immensely. Feedback from her teachers has been nothing but positive!
~One mother expressed to Letty that she had no idea how her child felt about herself or of her particular talents and attributes until the daughter came home and showed her mom the “personality test”.
After realizing that the students were grappling to find words to express themselves, Letty decided it was time to change this. As an example, if Letty were to ask : Why would you not tie up a dog and leave this creature alone day after day? The students might reply with, “It’s bad”. Well…yes, but why? So this led to a workshop on defining emotions and an evaluation of personality attributes. Once the kids started to delve into their own feelings and express these feelings it was like a light went on. Now, when they read a story about a homeless animal or chained dog they follow the meaning on a deeper, truer level. This may sound like a small or obvious thing but it really is enormous. It is an important link that hasn’t been well addressed!
This summer the Juntos Clubs wrote and recorded a song that speaks for the animals. You will be hearing it shortly. They plan to use this song for their walk-a-thon to raise money for the animals of Vieques. (The walk-a-thon was entirely their idea and inspired by the actor activist Raymond Arrieta). Johnny Colon has generously opened his recording studio and given his time to help make this happen. (The Juntos clubs spent a lot of time this summer at Johnny Colon’s riding company learning about proper care of horses.)
One on-going project of Letty’s has been to go into the homes of some of her students and video tape them as they tell, in their own words, the stories of how their pets came to be a part of their family. Watch for these short videos on Face Book : Juntos (Vieques) and on our You Tube channel : Juntos Vieques Puerto Rico.
So indeed the youth of Vieques are “waking up” to the world around them. They “feel” a lot. They are aware of and want to do something about abused or neglected animals in their neighborhoods. And just as importantly they are thinking outside of their small communities. For example they feel devastated by what is happening in Brazil with the burning of the rainforests! Their eyes are wide open and there is little doubt that it is their teacher Leticia Gonzalez and the Juntos Humane Education Program that has spearheaded this awakening. Here on Vieques, the next generation promises to be more compassionate and more fully aware of what it means to be responsible humans and good stewards of the planet. These children are tomorrow’s leaders!
As you know, this program is almost entirely funded by private donations from caring people such as yourselves. Please consider making a contribution to assure that this valuable work will continue. It is easy to donate via PayPal found on our website www.juntosvieques.org/donate or simply by sending a check to :
Juntos Vieques, Inc.
HC 02 Box 14717
Vieques PR 00765
River Karmen, Director