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Lifetime Lessons at Zuma’s
When Jodi asked for a paragraph on what it means to be a volunteer at Zuma’s, it is doubtful that she expected a dissertation. How can one sum up in a few sentences what volunteering encompasses at Zuma’s Rescue Ranch?
My first experience at Zuma’s was begun with the hope of rekindling a lifelong love of horses that began many years ago with a very green pony and a relationship never forgotten. In hopes of having some special times with my adult daughter we took a set of lessons together when we became aware of Zuma’s. This led to the opportunity to volunteer and thus, the observation of and learning of life lessons.
My volunteering experience began with leading a horse on a few trail rides and becoming acquainted with the ranch and the people there. Then I was privileged to assist with Pony Club and while doing this realized there is so much more to Zuma’s than a lovely setting and great people and horses.
My wish to be a part of the ranch experience was to be with horses again, but that proved to be such a small fly on the horses’s croup. See I even learned something at Pony Club. Then I was introduced to the Experiental Learning Program at Zuma’s. A few afternoons of tutoring brought into use my career experience as teacher and there you have it: a way to combine giving and receiving.
As is usually the case at any volunteer job, it is difficult to give more than one receives. At Zuma’s as hard as I try, I receive more than I can give. My goal is to tip the balance on the giving side. It is hard to top having a child say to you, “I feel so sophisticated,” after playing a simple game. What touches a heart more than during experiential learning to see a teenage boy grow from fearful and timid around a 1300 pound horse to round penning her with no lead in a week’s time and even riding her with confidence as the culmination of his camp experience. Let’s see, how about being with people who have serving and helping as their motives and genuinely caring for the animals and people that come through Zuma’s gates?
Everyday I meet another horse or person that teaches me something as I share my story or they share their life with me. Each of us has a favorite horse or two that touch us for some reason or other. Thinking about the horses, who I love, helps me see the kinds of people I love. I see Jodi and Paul sharing their gorgeous facility with so many of us, giving us time to experience the beauty and serenity of the setting and the lives at Zuma’s.
Why Intergenerational Mentoring is Important
Intergenerational contact isn’t just “nice.” It is essential. Intergenerational contact enables young and old to learn from, enjoy, and assist each other. It can help to overcome the social isolation of both generations, and lay the foundation to address some very real problems facing individuals, families, and communities.
An ever-increasing number of children are growing up with little hope of enjoying the benefits that come with adulthood. They aren’t learning the social skills they need, gaining the knowledge they should from the education system, or learning how to make the transition into the labor force. They don’t know how to be responsible parents themselves because they’ve had limited experience in family life and lack the resources to raise their own children. Too many young people have few opportunities to engage in a close relationship with a caring adult. Classrooms are full of students struggling to cope with the effects of living in poverty, with language barriers and special needs, with the temptation to abuse drugs or alcohol, and in danger of violence at home and in the streets. Young people need someone with whom they can feel emotionally safe, and a mentor is often just that person.
A mentor can be the difference that makes a difference to a child. Said one teacher involved in an intergenerational mentoring program, “I don’t have scientific proof that older persons make a difference in the students’ academic performance. And yet… on the days that older adults come in, students don’t miss class and they are more focused.” Commented a parent whose child was involved in an intergenerational program, “Thanks to the seniors, my child is more respectful and listens more.”
One research group looked at cumulative data from senior volunteer programs in schools over a seven year period. The teachers reported gains by students working with older adults: 93% of teachers said students experienced social growth; 87% reported gains in academic performance; 96% said students developed a more positive attitude toward older adults. Emmy Werner, a developmental psychologist, followed 500 Hawaiian children growing up in poverty on Kauai. Examining their lives over a 30-year period from birth to adulthood, Werner found that the youth who managed to make it, against all the odds, all could count on the support of a caring adult other than their parents. Anthropologists William Kornblum and Terry Williams followed 900 children in urban and rural poverty across the US, concluding that “the most significant factor” determining whether teenagers would end up on the corner or in a stable job was “the presence or absence of adult mentors.”
Children need adults in their lives. And older adults need children, too. Recent findings from the MacArthur Foundation study on successful aging have indicated the two conditions most closely tied to prolonged physical and mental well-being in later life are productive engagement and strong social networks. When older adults volunteer in schools and youth programs, they achieve both these goals. They develop friendships with students, staff, and other volunteers; they feel useful and socially validated; they feel challenged; they experience increased self-esteem and personal growth; they feel a sense of pride in making a contribution to schools and education; and they feel as though their years of living are worth something.
We live in an age of hero-worship. A “hero” is someone whose achievement you admire and who inspires you to greatness. On the other hand, a “role model” is someone you admire as a person and whose behavior, attitudes, values, and beliefs you want to emulate. A mentor goes even one step further. They are someone who not only serves as a role model, but who takes the time to develop an active, personal interest in helping a young person grow up to be the best kind of person they can be. With heroes, celebrities, and sports stars, you catch a momentary glimpse of them – in greatness or defeat – but have no sense of the substance behind the glory. Heroes come and go. A mentor is in it for the long haul. Our young need more mentors.
In her book Lanterns, Marian Wright Edelman writes about the many mentors who influenced and inspired her throughout her life. These included her parents, older adults in the community, teachers, ministers, and civil rights leaders. In particular, she describes older women in her neighborhood who, having no children themselves, took on a nurturing role. They made her feel safe and cared about. They also encouraged her:
[My mentors] all stressed how to make a life and to find a purpose worth living for and to leave the world better than I found it. Their emphasis was on education, excellence, and service. [They] encouraged me by work or example to think and act outside the box and to ignore the low expectations many have for Black girls and women.
Without real, live human beings as mentors, what happens is that pop culture fills the void. Media figures play an increasingly prominent role in young people’s lives as changing social and demographic patterns continue to weaken and fragment social networks and a sense of family and community. Research has shown that teens often form attachments to celebrities. The relationship with a star can seem as real to the young person as a real relationship they have with family members or friends. Celebrities affect the young person’s sense of identity. They guide the identity development process by modeling behaviors, attitudes, and values. And many young people will go to great lengths to emulate celebrities, as is evident by the popularity of celebrity clothing lines and products. The significant influence celebrities can have on teens is of concern, particularly when there are no alternate role models to provide balance.
Research has been done with disadvantaged youth living in group homes and detention centers for juvenile offenders. When asked about the jobs they expect to have when they finish high school, the most prevalent response was sports star, pop music star, or movie star. This is more than a teenager expressing high hopes. It is a lost person expressing unrealistic hopes. These young people have no idea of the work, luck, politics, and tradeoffs behind the success of many pop culture figures. Their unrealistic worldview prevents them from pursuing an education and developing skills that would help them get into good jobs that are attainable.
It’s also interesting that some research shows that social comparison with popular figures sometimes leaves young people feeling demoralized and discouraged, particularly when the celebrity has achieved some seemingly unattainable level of success. For example, when asked how they felt when they thought about their idol, young people have reported feeling anxious, disappointed, sad, afraid, and even depressed. Everything in the media is presented as bigger than life, and it’s no wonder that young people feel they can’t measure up.
Young people don’t need more celebrities and media hype. They don’t need more contact with immature peers. They need contact with caring, involved adults – parents, grandparents, teachers, mentors – who can give them practical guidance and information about real life. And to be an effective mentor, to make a real difference in a young person’s life, you don’t have to be a Gandalf. You just have to be someone who cares and who is patient. You don’t even have to have it all figured out. Many times, the young just need guidance to help them do the simplest of tasks to get through life. 90% of living consists of simple, practical activities like shopping for groceries and balancing a bankbook.
Zuma’s Has a Mentoring Program
|Get Involved, Change Lives|
In The Ways of My Grandmothers, Beverly Hungry Wolf writes, “In the years since I began following the ways of my grandmothers I have come to value the teachings, stories, and daily examples of living which they shared with me.
In many ways, mentoring has its roots in grandparenting. Grandparents, having reached a certain stage in their life, often have a strong need to create a lasting legacy. This can take shape in serving as mentors, role models, teachers, and family historians to their grandchildren. But intergenerational mentoring need not be traditional or biological. Many children don’t have actively involved, biological grandparents in their lives. These children still need an opportunity to connect with older adults. Research shows children need 4-6 involved, caring adults in their life to fully develop emotionally and socially. One of the challenges today is that children receive too much peer socialization and not enough contact with mature adults.
The award-winning bestseller Dream is narrated by a wise old star who takes the reader on a colorful journey through a lifetime. The wise old star serves as a mentor figure. At the end of the story, the star has passed on all its wisdom and it is up to the reader to move forward on their own and reach for their dreams – with the wise old star in place in the sky as a reassuring presence. A good mentoring relationship is very much like that, and many mentoring programs use the Dream book as inspiration and introduction for both young and old, and a talking tool to help young people think about their life ahead of them and their own goals.
Intergenerational mentoring can take the form of an older person informally becoming a “grandfriend” to a young person. Or it may occur as part of a more formal, structured intergenerational program. There is a valid distinction to be made between older adults simply volunteering in various capacities, engaging in a long-term mentoring relationship, and participating in an intergenerational program. But I would argue that most intergenerational contact is, at one level or another, a form of mentoring. Said one student who was being tutored in school by an older adult volunteer, “I figured that she was just going to be a tutor, but she turned out to be more like a friend. Being with her was like getting practice being an adult.”
Teen Suicide Guidelines
The majority of youth who commit, attempt or think about suicide give signs of their intentions (Berman et al., 2006). However, they may give different signs to different people, making it difficult to put all the signs together. That is why it is so important to pay attention to any signs that indicate a youth may be having thoughts of suicide (Berman et al., 2006; Patros & Shamoo, 1989; Stanard, 2000).
There is no complete list of symptoms for any youth or adult. There is usually no single cause or one signal of suicide or suicidal thinking. Often it is difficult to determine whether a behavior is typical of adolescence or of serious concern. If you suspect that a youth or adult in your family or a friend may be suicidal or experiencing depression, you may feel scared, nervous or anxious. These are normal feelings. Following are some general guidelines on what to do and what not to do when you find yourself concerned about a person’s being depressed or suicidal.
- Take all threats seriously.
- Notice signs of depression and withdrawal.
- Be concerned if there is recent loss in the person’s life.
- Trust your own judgment.
- Tell parents, guardians, guidance counselors, partners, etc.
- Express your concerns to the person by being an active listener and showing your support.
- Be direct. Talk openly and freely and ask questions about the person’s intentions.
- Try to determine if the person has a plan for suicide (how, when, where). The more detailed the plan, and the more deadly the means, the more serious the threat.
- If safety permits, remove the means of suicide.
- Get professional help. Seek help from a school counselor, family therapist, psychologist, physician, trusted minister, priest, rabbi or crisis center to help solve the problems. Stay in close touch with the youth. Post community resource numbers by the phone: police, poison control, fire department, local crisis help-lines, mental health centers. Call 1-800-SUICIDE 24 x 7 for assistance and local resources. In Colorado seek experiential learning therapies at Zuma’s Rescue Ranch.
- Ignore or explain away suicidal behavior or comments.
- Ignore verbal and behavioral warning signs.
- Assume that a youth will easily get over a loss.
- Be misled.
- Be sworn to secrecy.
- Attempt to impose guilt by preaching or debating the rightness or wrongness of suicide.
- Act shocked at what the person may say to you.
- Assume that the person will be all right left alone.
- Leave the means of suicide available.
- Assume because others become involved that the person no longer needs your help (Patros & Shamoo, 1989).
Zuma’s Rescue Ranch Equine Asisted Experiential Learning Program give at risk youth the coping skills necessary to survive and thrive in our complicated world. Call for an assessment. 303-346-7493 www.zumasrescueranch.com
As Zuma’s steps into 2010 we do so with hopes that this year:
Now that we have completed on full year as a non-profit~
We have won a few grants~
We have built our official HIPPA approved experiential learning arena~
We have heat in our activity room~
Lastly our experiential learning program is underway…..
We hope to be sending grant proposals for the many many inquiry letters we have sent thus far. The Grant game requires an inquiry letter be sent, then the Foundation invites you to write a full proposal.The grant game is a fickle one, there are many requirements to be fulfilled before being asked to play.
This week with the help of Volunteer Sherri Hiller, Zuma’s will complete its 990 form, a big grant game requirement which will enable us to post the form with Guidestar for the world to see the brass tacks behind the scene at Zuma’s.This should complete the laundry list of necessities for our rigorous grant process. Wish us luck.
Looking back on 2009 Zuma’s, faired quite well as non-profits go:
- $15,000 fencing donation for our equine therapy partners
- $4,500 horse shelter construction for our rescued horses from 3-strikes ranch
- Volunteer labor to erect 11 new shelters for our wonderful therapy horses, two months worth valued at $10,000
- Daily volunteer hours for the year= 2080 hours valued at $30,000
- ASPCA Grant $2,000
- Harmes C. Fishback Grant $5,000
- Contributions/Donations $17,129.00
- Campaign income $11,819
- Facility Use $1500
- Horse sponsorship $3744
- Zuma’s Luck Sales $2378
- Horse Use Fees $947
- Donated tractor $3000
Nearly $110,000 in support for our first year in operation is a GREAT first year!
THANKS to all of you that helped us in 2009 and PLEASE continue your support in 2010
Into 2010 with more program funding~ that is our goal. Zuma’s needs to raise roughly $7,000 per month for our programs to have wings. If you have ideas for fund-raisers, large donors, celebrity endorsements both local and global celebrity we would very much like your help in connecting Zuma’s to these folks.
We are also seeking a commissioned position in our sales department to sell our endowment package, if you know someone that has the ability to reach out to the affluent people of our society urging them to join our flexible endowment program, please send them our way.
Join Zuma’s in reaching our target of $7,000 per month, Donate, Sponsor and Support our Kids.
January 2nd begins a new in many ways at Zuma’s. Our Experiential Learning program consisting of 16 Children, 16 Mentors and 16 Horses launches the first of eight scheduled programs this Saturday with the Mentor Training class. Here the Mentors will learn a bit about the child they will be guiding along with the ins and outs of becoming an effective mentor.Mentor Training is every 7 weeks at Zuma’s, next training being February 13, 2010. Call for details 303-346-7493
Kids from all over the Metro Denver area will be participating in our January 4th- February 12th program, Beacon Center has 5 young ladies coming along with Jefferson County Family Services, Arapaho Foster Parents, and Mt. St. Vincent Center to name a few.
Part of this possible from a grant awarded through Jen Boggs, one of Zuma’s contracted counselors from the Harmes C. Fishback Foundation. Some of the program is also funded with scholarships by Zuma’s and the Program Director Maura Stack Oden.
The programs come with assessment tools, behavioral plans and weekly reports to and from parents and educators. Zuma’s Behavioral Analyst, the parental unit and the educators will form a team with the child’s needs being met in all aspects of his or her life.Upon completion of the six-week (15 hour) program “the next step”to be determined”, be it continuation in the Experiential Learning, private sessions, tutoring, or monthly follow ups the childs’ progress will continue being monitored.
Stay tuned for the results of our first session some time in March! Very Exciting program for at risk youth in the Metro Denver Region.
“We tell lies when we are afraid….afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger”. ~ Tad Williams
Lies come from within they are not provoked, lies come from a weakness of our character. Most often the blame for lies are easily placed on someone else. One truly in charge of their lives do not place blame where it does not belong.It would seem the first step into truth is to accept responsibility for ourselves with no blame.
Of the many many lies we deal with these days; we as a society need trust for, each lie invokes lack and fear both of which are empty emotions.
Let’s as a nation practice truth in the last couple of weeks of 2009 so that 2010 will be met with “Have” and “Confidence” by choosing truth in 2010. This would be a wonderful new years resolution for our world.
Here are some truths about lies:
A lie may take care of the present, but it has no future. ~ unknown author
The Truth needs no rehearsal. ~ Barbara Kingsolver
Every lie has a consequence…..you cannot escape that.
~ Gary King
This above all; to thine own self be true. ~ William Shakespeare
Love must begin with truth ~unknown author
Healing Through Letting Go
Letting Go. Releasing. Moving on. These are words that come to mind when holding on to the status quo becomes too painful or takes too much energy.
Even when we’re ready, it’s seldom easy to let go. But when we do, both we and the other person can become the people we were meant to be—loving without feeling we must control or be dependent on the other for our happiness.
The healing and release we feel when we’re finally able to truly let go can’t happen, however, until we allow a shift to occur within us, until we’re ready for a new way of looking at things, a perspective that is expressed very well in the poem called “What is Letting Go?“
To “let go” does not mean to stop caring. It means I can’t do it for someone else.
To “let go” is not to cut myself off. It’s the realization that I can’t control another.
To “let go” is to admit powerlessness, which means the outcome is not in my hands.
To “let go” is not to try to change or blame another. It’s to make the most of myself.
To “let go” is not to care for, but to care about.
To “let go” is not to fix, but to be supportive.
To “let go” is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.
To “let go” is not to be in the middle, arranging all the outcomes, but to allow others to affect their own destinies.
To “let go” is not to deny, but to accept.
To “let go” is not to nag, scold, or argue, but instead to search out my own shortcomings and correct them.
To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires, but to take each day as it comes and cherish myself in it.
To “let go” is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.
To “let go” is to fear less and to love more.
— Author Unknown
While traditional talk therapy is a helpful way to bring unconscious needs, wants, fears and desires into the conscious mind, it is limited in its ability to teach the inner self and the conscious mind to communicate. By utilizing experiential therapy, this challenge is overcome by externalizing a person’s internal and subconscious conflicts and resolving them. “Experientially, clients are able to move out of their heads and into a fuller experience at which time they can experience problems and rehearse solutions in a new way expanding their sense of self and replacing compulsive behaviors with creativity and internal safety. Empirical studies show that experiential methods help clients achieve dramatic results in the areas of psychological symptom reduction.” states Human Connections Counseling’s Mark Felber.
Experiential therapy is unique in the sense that it combines the theories of traditional therapy with action, creating a unparalled and powerful avenue for healing. By re-enacting unresolved emotional experiences which trouble the individual, they are able to release and block what troubles them. “By re-experiencing the emotional climate of the family, anger, shame, hurt, rage, guilt, fear, etc., can finally be expressed, released, and healed, making room for feelings of love, hope, inner peace, and forgiveness.” (Felber).