Teddy Reading with the Rabbits
Teddy Reading with the Rabbits

People Serving People is the largest and most comprehensive family-focused shelter in Minnesota, which exists to help children and their families manage crisis situations and build a strong foundation for long-term success. People Serving People achieves its mission by providing emergency shelter to fulfill basic needs, while also providing community services so families can overcome the barriers that are preventing them from achieving stable housing. Some of these services include employment services, mental health services, advocacy services, childcare services and educational services.

The Educational Services department works specifically with youth in grades k-12 to provide tutoring and enrichment programs. The focus of these programs is literacy, which extends beyond the ability to read and write, but also includes collaborating with others to solve problems, asking questions, speaking and listening to others, developing vocabulary, and more. As – I’m sure many of you know – literacy is instrumental in determining the child’s academic success which consequently determines their chances of employment, level of income, etc. We work to achieve literacy in our tutoring and enrichment programs by offering homework support, developing curriculum with a literacy-emphasis, and working with partner organizations to help improve the child’s ability to interpret information, create ideas, connect with others, and determine quality choices and solutions.

Another major component of the Educational Services Department and People Serving People, is our practice of trauma-informed care. What this means is that the organization as a whole – from the staff, to the policies, to the building – have all been envisioned through a trauma-lens.  We understand that each guest we serve has experienced trauma – becoming homeless in itself is a traumatic experience – so we want to be mindful that our interactions, our policies, and the environment do not trigger that guest to become re-traumatized.

As mentioned earlier, the Ed Services Department works with a number of partner organizations within our programs.  Bunny Besties is one of those organizations that has combined the two key components of our program– literacy, and trauma informed care –to bring their own unique curriculum into our classrooms.

Bunny Besties works with our youth to develop a positive relationship with literacy by creating a fun, comfortable, judgment-free space for the kids to read. Roughly twice a month, they bring in certified therapy rabbits to sit patiently with the kids and listen to the child is he or she reads to them. You would be amazed at the excitement of the children when they realize that it is Bunny Bestie day – they literally can’t get through the lobby and up to the second floor without being engulfed in children.

This excitement not only fosters a positive relationship between the child and the bunny, but it also fosters a positive relationship between the child and the book. Reading with a bunny also gives that child a sense of security. The child doesn’t have to feel intimidated if they come across a difficult word,or if the book they feel comfortable reading is below what society says should be that child’s reading level- they can just read – without any judgment. Bunny Besties does a phenomenal job at creating an atmosphere that is calming and feels safe for the child.

When the kids enter the classroom there is always a discussion about the importance of keeping our voices low around the bunnies because of their enhanced sense of hearing. Each child is also given a blanket that they can wrap up in and take home with them at the end of the session, which – again – gives the child a sense of safety. These intentional elements they have intertwined into their program, are all factors of our trauma-informed care model.

Before the Bunny Besties begin to pack up their rabbits into their carriers and make their way back down to the lobby, where they will – again – be engulfed in excited children,they give each child a book and ask them to continue to practice their reading at home. There has been such a positive outcome of this collaboration between Bunny Besties and People Serving People. I want to thank you all for what you do for the organization, the children, and their educational growth.

 

Contributed by:

Anna Rysavy
Educational Services Coordinator
People Serving People Homeless Shelter

Please follow the link below to watch this heartwarming Bunny Bestie moment at PSP with the children.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zzd3m19XOU