Ever meet a child who cares so much, your hope for the future is fully restored? Here at HEART, we get to feel that sensation each day. We wish you could meet all the kids who go through our programs and see just how big their hearts are. For now, we’d like to introduce you to Gideon.
7-year-old Gideon Simmons participated in our “Caring Kids: Animal Ambassadors” program for 5 – 8-year-olds that we created in partnership with Animal Haven. As an Animal Ambassador, Gideon took part in five different programs, each three sessions long, learning about topics including companion animal protection, the importance of adopting small furry animals, birds, and reptiles, building reverence for farm animals, protecting wildlife, and humane training techniques, along with promoting dog and cat adoptions. During each program Gideon and all the other children learned about various issues related to the main topic and then completed service projects to help animals in real life. At the end of the program youth received badges to recognize what they learned, the service they provided, and their dedication to helping animals in need.
We decided to ask Gideon if he would mind sharing with all of you why he cares so much about animals, and how he feels about Caring Kids.
Gideon and his mom, Georgia, came all the way from Staten Island to Manhattan to attend, not exactly a short distance to travel for an after-school program. Gideon explained, “I read this book called ‘Harry the Homeless Puppy’ and people were volunteering at this animal shelter. So after I read the whole book, my mom [and I] went online and we tried to find local animal shelters that I could volunteer at. All the animal shelters didn’t really have something for kids my age. So, we found Animal Haven. It was the best.”
In the Living Wild section of our program, youth had the opportunity to learn more about how trash and litter can harm wildlife. They created art pieces to educate others on the harmful consequences that trash can have on our wildlife friends and discussed ways to protect wildlife by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Gideon, a long-time animal lover, with a special interest in wildlife, told us he wants to assist animals when they are injured when he grows up. He said he will “help animals and nurse them back to health if damaged, like seagulls if they get caught up in trash. Or…wounded fish or dolphins…and whales.”
The youth who attended Caring Kids: Animal Ambassadors learned a lot about animals in need and ways to help. Gideon told us that of everything he learned, one of the things that will stay with him the most is the plight of captive animals. He said, “animals who are captured and brought in to places like circuses… like elephants, they don’t like it.” In his opinion, “[t]hey’re tortured. They’re probably being held down against their will.”
In addition to learning about the issues, a key component of the program was the service projects. Gideon, along with all the other youth who attended, participated in numerous projects to help animals. While Gideon said that he really liked all the projects, he said his “favorite, favorite, favorite” one was when he tabled for Animal Haven (using display boards the kids made themselves, among other materials) and collected donations for the shelter.
Gideon is wise beyond his years; he said that it is important to help animals because “we need them.” He explained that there are so many ways that animals have helped people and therefore people should help them.
Outside of the program Gideon and his family have their own animal companions who they love and care for. They also provide for the needs of a stray cat who is in their neighborhood. Gideon says everyone can start helping animals today by, “being nicer to the Earth, [not] littering and stop[ping] all this toxic stuff that people let in to the air.”
To other kids who are thinking about attending the program this coming fall, Gideon says, “…don’t even think about it, just go right ahead! It’s the best place you could ever want to go…It’s nice, the people there are friendly…I love everything there.”
Photo credit for image of Gideon with certificates: Brandon Perdomo