When Kimberly Ray, faculty advisor of the Teacher Education Club, suggested the members engage in a different type of community work for the 2010 holiday season, students Jacqueline Wong and Nora Andors knew they had an “in.”
“Other BMCC Clubs were hosting a holiday book drive, coat drive, food drive…but there was no drive for animal shelters, so I mentioned this at a club meeting,” said Ray, an Early Childhood Education Instructor. “Nora said she interned at Animal Haven and Jacqueline said her husband, Mantat, also worked there. In regards to community service, it was a great place to lend our support.”
Animal Haven is a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter and storefront in downtown Manhattan that rehabilitates animals for adoption by a loving owner.
Donations pour in
Once the decision was made to support Animal Haven, the 50 members of the Teacher Education Club got down to business.
Fliers were distributed around campus, professors spread the word in their classrooms about Animal Haven, and colorful donation boxes were placed in the Teacher Education Department’s main office.
“The donations started pouring in, from October to mid-November,” said Ray.
Andors was ‘shocked’ at the amount of donations, which included paper towels, leashes, dog and cat food, air fresheners, pet toys, and more. “I didn’t realize how much we collected until I saw the bags and bags of goods on donation day. Everyone thinks about donating to the homeless and people in need, which is wonderful, but not everyone thinks about the animals living on the streets.”
Mantat Wong, husband of BMCC student Jacqueline Wong, and a Kennel Attendant at Animal Haven, said BMCC’s donation drive helped “tremendously.”
“We need everything from dish detergent, to rubber gloves, to stamps,” he explained. “In fact, we can always use stamps because we mail dog license forms and vaccination records.”
Because Animal Haven is a non-profit organization, “we strongly rely on donations such as the one that the BMCC's Teacher Education Club has made,” said Wong.
So many items were donated that Ray had to load them into her car to transport them to the shelter.
“When we walked into the shelter with all these bags, just before BMCC’s winter break, the staff was so excited,” recalls Ray. “We exceeded their expectations.”
Animals and children
Ray and her students believe that fostering the animal/child connection has a valid impact on child development. This is one of many reasons why the Teacher Education Club didn’t feel their decision to aid local animals was unconventional.
“A childhood educator can gain so much from working with animals,” says Ray. “I encourage students to make lasting connections with community members. We also discuss the ways animals contribute to our daily lives. Many children have a significant pet companion in their lives, and it’s important their teachers recognize that special relationship. We also talk about the impact of pet therapy, particularly with children. Oftentimes, a young child may be nervous about reading aloud in front of their peers, for example. That anxiety would be lowered if they were reading with a dog, for instance.”
Ray, a dog lover, says animals play a strategic role when children learn to socialize. “It’s important for children to know how to approach an animal on the sidewalk, and the right way to pet it.”
Pets and students
Student Nora Andors said working with animals is an active job that requires lots of patience. “And, in return, patience is key when working with children” she says. “Working at Animal Haven taught me about responsibility, since I balanced my internship with my courses at BMCC.”
Jacqueline Wong, who fostered a cat from Animal Haven, says that childhood educators can benefit from working with animals.
“Since I was young, I’ve always loved animals, and was always watching Animal Planet,” she said. “My ideal job would be to teach children at a zoo about the different animals. Children can learn about nature, respect for life, responsibility and science while touring a zoo. I strongly believe in, and encourage, the special connection between people and pets.”