The first quarter of 2011 was certainly "different" to put it mildly! Planning programs outdoors can be challenging under normal circumstances, but this quarter almost had us questioning our sanity for trying to continue programs in Michigan in the winter. Notice I said "almost"! After we plowed out from under the blizzard, uncovered the house and barn from a mountain of tree limbs, melted the ice so we could navigate across the ground, got electricity back on and the schools were back in session, there was no doubt why we struggle to provide our programs at the Equestrian Outreach Center even in winter in Michigan. The students want to be here and there is something here for them - personal attention, acceptance, praise, outdoor exercise, time with the animals, new knowledge, successful learning. We see confidence building in them and we know by their comments that they feel safe in our environment.
Just this week two students shared with us personal struggles they face at home. One is repeatedly told he is stupid, the other told over and over that she is a bother at home. One is becoming a bully at school - go figure! The other is timid and apologizes for everything she does. Makes you want to gather her up in your arms and tell her over and over and over that she could never be a bother. Makes you not care that Michigan weather is harsh. The programs need to be here for these students to look forward to.
If snow and ice wasn't enough you know what came next - rain and mud and more rain, 35 degree miserable rain. The Jackson County Youth Center is currently full. This means that instead of 5-6 teens we have been having 12 teens at once in the rain and mud confined to the barn. If you ever really want to enjoy an afternoon of joy and laughs come watch a barn full of inner city teens spending time with chickens, turkeys, rabbits, goats, sheep and ponies, listening to the rain on a metal roof, drinking hot chocolate, trying not to spill toxic waste from a nuclear reactor. You just had to be there!
In order for them to justify spending part of their school day at the EOC we teach a science lesson. The day of torrential rains was spent studying personalities - their own and the different animals. The chicken brought in from the chicken coop and stuffed in a cage became cranky. It was suggested that perhaps she needed to lay an egg and sure enough before they left she did. What a thrill!
Since their current science unit is on biology this gave us several weeks of "egg" study - turkey eggs, guinea eggs, chicken eggs, store bought eggs. Do you know how many experiments can be done with eggs? And do these inner city teens care? Yes! They are fascinated. They are learning, soaking up knowledge like sponges.
Eleven years ago we started a pilot program with 3 students. Currently we have between 25 and 30 students coming each week. We are hoping to add a leadership program for a small rural school in our district, partnering middle school students with challenged students from one of the county ISD schools. This is exciting!
We hope you have a great spring. We know we will! Thank you and God bless you for helping in what ever way you do!
We have added several volunteers. We thank all our volunteers for their special gift of time. It is priceless! If you can donate a couple hours of time please call us at 517-812-6664. We have some program times to fill this spring.
Please call the Equestrian Outreach Center 517-812-6664 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details about volunteering, work days, donations.
Please pray for our ministry!