Olympia is lucky to have a thriving community of nonprofit and agency services meeting many of the basic needs of the youth in our community. Unfortunately in Olympia, as in most communities, so called "underserved youth" remain underserved by programs that provide high quality enrichment and extra curricular activities. As our public school system has lost it's financial margin and has had to cut many of the extras that used to be a part of school, parents in privileged households have filled those gaps through paid private lessons, sports, and activities. Children in less privileged households are often left without any of the extras that bring richness and meaning to their young lives. Our programs are designed to support all youth, but with special attention to those frequently left behind.
Our intervention utilizes humane education and follows a model known as Green Care. Green Care was originally conceived in Scandinavia to describe alternative arenas in which people can work with animals, agriculture and other tasks related to nature in the context of receiving social services. By directly caring for animals and being placed in the service provider role, instead of the service recipient role, children build self-efficacy, responsibility, empathy and compassion, personal boundaries such as personal space and appropriate touch, leadership, and teamwork skills.
Our philosophy is that if youth are given chances to explore and cultivate their natural strengths in a safe environment - especially in an enriched, trauma informed, nature-based milieu with animals, plants, and caring adults to engage with, that those strengths will increase. Learning to properly care for and understand animals develops a sense of responsibility and pride. A child whose trust was shattered by a person is far more likely to risk friendship with an animal because the animal does not ask questions, doesn't judge, and never shares the child's secrets. Animals then help to bridge communication with caring adults, forming emotional skills that lead to healthy relationships. Human-animal interactions, and time in nature, are integral parts of all our programs. We believe that these interactions can be life changing.
Our intended outcomes are consistent across our programs. They include the following:
- Increase emotion regulation and coping skills
- Increase the ability to make and maintain friendships
- Build empathy by practicing caring and nurturing behavior with animals
- Build necessary emotional and psychological strength and resilience to meet the academic and social demands of life successfully
- Increased sense of ownership and responsibility for farm community
- Increased hope/vision for the future
- Increased self-confidence and confidence in one’s ability to succeed
- Healthy interpersonal relationships
- More empathic parenting of their own children
- Greater job stability
- Perseverance and determination to complete higher education