Mornings on our little farm in the Philippines are humid and busy as the children in the safe home leave their rooms in small groups and walk across the property to do their daily chores. Some sprinkle corn grits to feed the chickens. Some take leftovers from the kitchen and throw them into the catfish pond. The goats get new water to drink, mixed with a bit of salt and honey, and a hearty breakfast of leaves from a madre cacao tree. A few girls peer into each of the duck nests and harvest the eggs — up to 95 a day!
Although their days are full of many other activities, the time the children spend on the farm is very important to them. The animals show up in their conversations, their stories, and even the drawings they bring home from school. It shouldn’t be a surprise that these are among the most beloved animals for miles around. But for the kids in our Philippines survivor care, these chickens, goats, fish, and ducks are also among the most important therapeutic workers at the Round Home. Here are a few reasons why.
1. ANIMALS ARE TRUSTWORTHY.
Our animals are gentle towards the people who care for them. They don’t harm them, betray them, or say harsh words. For some young people who have been hurt, animals may be the first living things that they learn to trust.
“The animals are kind.” — Maddie, age 12
“The animals are innocent. There are no bad animals. Animals become bad if we treat them badly.” — Sonya, age 10
2. THE ANIMALS LOVE AND ACCEPT THEM JUST AS THEY ARE.
The kids we work with have been treated in the past like they’re not lovable or worthy. But that’s not how the animals see them. When catfish come to the surface to feed on newly scattered pellets, when a duck follows a toddler waddling across the yard, or when a goat nibbles banana leaves from a tiny outstretched hand, something powerful happens. The kids see that these creatures appreciate their presence and draw nearer to them. It reminds them that they are noticed and valued.
“Sometimes, the chickens are my playmates.” — Julieta, age 6
“We visit and feed the chickens every day. I’m happy to be part of their life.” —Mindy, age 8
3. RAISING ANIMALS TEACHES THEM ABOUT DIGNITY AND SELF-CARE.
A child helping out on the farm learns that the lives of the animals matter. Sometimes this makes it easier for her to believe the same about herself.
“Like people, the animals need respect and care.” — Sonya, age 10
“Roba and Glenna [the goats] will give birth soon. I am happy for them because every baby, whether a human being or animal, is a blessing.” — Mae, age 14
“Sometimes there are people who want to harm the animals. That’s why we must protect them.” — Mindy, age 8
“Everything that has life must be cared for and protected.” — Maddie, age 12
4. FARM ANIMALS SHOW THEM WHAT CARING COMMUNITY LOOKS LIKE.
Kids who have been used for another person’s own gain might feel like relationships are always one-sided and exploitative. They may shy away from connection to a community. It can be amazing for them to realize that just as the chickens both depend on their caregivers and also provide for them, healthy communities allow people to both give and receive help, to teach and serve and nurture one another.
“I just realized that the lives of humans and animals are both connected. If the catfish are gone, I won’t have anything to eat. If the humans are gone, the animals will starve and die eventually. We need them, and they need us. We need each other to survive.” — Crystal, age 10
“The fish are great teachers. One of the things I learned from them is the value of giving. If no one’s willing to give, it’s possible that no one will survive.” — Crystal, age 10
5. THE ANIMALS SHOW THAT IT’S IMPORTANT TO HAVE YOUR NEEDS MET.
The kids we partner with have been told that their needs don’t matter. People who hear this often enough may start to doubt that there’s such a thing as a relationship that helps them thrive. But when they realize that the corn they throw into the pond helps the fish grow, or when they watch the gardener build a bamboo pen to protect the goat’s newborn twins, they have a new image of relationships.
“[The fish] are being raised and fed properly, just like we are in the Round Home.” — Mindy, age 8
“I am grateful because just like the fish, I am also free.” — Crystal, age 10
“I know that [the fish] are happy even though I can’t actually see the smiles on their faces.” — Gloria, age 12
6. CARING FOR ANIMALS LETS THEM PRACTICE KINDNESS IN SIMPLE, CONCRETE WAYS.
Some of the survivors we work with in the White Home and the Round Home come to us without much experience of giving or receiving kindness. But when they care for the animals, they learn how to be gentle and generous.
“We feed the fish on time…They appreciate the food we give them.” — Crystal, age 10
“They taught me here in the Round Home to treat the animals well.” — Sonya, age 10
“I love the goats, so I’m doing my best to take good care of them. I don’t want to lose them. I want to raise and protect them.” — Maddie, age 12
“I learned that goats get scared when you shout at them.” — Mae, age 14
7. BY BEING CARETAKERS TO THE ANIMALS, THE KIDS LEARN THAT THEY ARE CAPABLE OF MEANINGFUL ACTIONS.
Even though their past and present have had elements that are out of their control, they learn that they have real potential to change things about the world for the better.
“I learned that it is not only adults who can raise animals. Children like me are also capable of raising animals.” — Peggy, age 7
“I’m happy to see them growing in number because it means that we were able to do our job.” — Gloria, age 12
“It feels good to share your time with people and animals who need you.” —Jasmine, age 9
It’s obvious to us that the Love146 animals have cared for the kids just as the kids have cared for them. We owe them a big thank you. After all, as Crystal said, “We need each other to survive.”
In honor of the Pink Farm animals and the young people who look after them, consider making a donation to support Love146’s work.