Being a counselor/teacher/missionary can be a lonely job. I often bring my kids and teachers home figuratively speaking… thinking about them long after they walk out the door of my office. Sometimes it feels hopeless; as if I can’t do enough. Sometimes I struggle with how to best help them. Sometimes they need a little more than I can give.
I don’t usually include research in my blog but in this case, I may make an exception. I also don’t normally focus on negative things as there is so much beauty in this country. However, in order for you to understand the depth of the struggle, you first have to understand what our students and staff live through. For our teachers and 61 Isaiah staff, the statistics are scary: 80% of missionaries burn out and don’t finish their term. 46% of missionaries have been diagnosed with a psychological issue, and of those 87% are diagnosed with depression.
For both teachers and students, living in a developing country means exposure to trauma and crime on a fairly regular basis. The country, as a whole, ranked fifth in the world in terms of overall crime rate. 1 in 5 Hondurans are a victim of crime every year. And each year, at least one of our teachers has been a victim of crime. In fact, a little over half our current foreign staff has already experienced this. I thought about writing about the things we faced just this week with our students and teachers but wasn’t sure how to do this without breaking confidentiality. Trust me when I say though, it has been a hard couple of weeks for those I love.
But why am I writing about this? Because I have some amazing news, that’s why! Our school has approved the addition of a facility dog and Bella’s Buddies is currently training our future dog to help me at the school as well as ministry outside the school. So how does this work?
- Studies have shown that animal-assisted therapy has not only short-term benefits but also long-term benefits through the reduction of cortisol levels from stress for victims of trauma.
- Animals can also help as a catalyst in the therapy process as well as lower stress and anxiety.
- Being involved in positive interactions with a dog lowered stress levels which increased social affiliation, and trust. It is also helpful in learning social skills.
- Animals can help with improving social and communication skills, easing anxiety, improving mood, and improving empathy skills.
All that to say, this is a fabulous opportunity for my students, teachers, and our staff. If you are not familiar with Bella’s Buddies then check them out. They are a non-profit that raises facility dogs, service dogs, and ESAs. They are donating either Piper or Major to 61 Isaiah to use in our ministry. However, we don’t want them to be out of money either and are therefore raising money for this venture. If you would like to help financially then you can donate on our website in the dropdown menu labeled “ALCS Therapy Dog.”
Updates will be given often as we receive and utilize our dog!