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Homeless Youth Help Homeless Animals

Homeless Youth Help Homeless Animals

Well, here is a win-win!  A Biology major with aspirations toward becoming a veterinarian has created a unique and innovative program serving the needs of homeless youth and homeless animals in Philadelphia.

Rachel Cohen has always been passionate where animals are concerned.  The University of Pennsylvania junior saw many homeless young people on her way to classes and instinctively reached out to talk with them.
 
Many youth who age out of foster care at 18 live on the streets with pets of their own.  Because most shelters will not allow pets, these kids live under overpasses and any other potentially warm, dry spot they can find.

The statistics from a recent video made about Rachel’s innovative program, Hand2Paw, states one in two foster children leave the program at age 18 without a high school diploma.  One in four leaves the system without even a place to live.
 
The numbers for Philadelphia’s homeless animals are dreadful, too.  Last year 4,360 dogs and over 12,000 cats and kittens were euthanized because they had no home.
 
With her heart reaching out to the struggling young people living hand to mouth, Rachel decided to start a program combining the needs of homeless kids and homeless animals.  She named it Hand2Paw.

Starting in early 2010, Rachel coordinated Hand2Paw with other agencies in the city.  Covenant House and Project H.O.M.E. service young homeless teens in Philadelphia, teaching them how to successfully transition between foster care and life on their own.  PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society) is a rescue group with an outstanding record of saving the many homeless animals who also get caught in a bureaucratic system.

“Hand2Paw is a mutually beneficial program of the two causes I am most passionate about,” Rachel told me in an interview.

To date, over 70 teens have participated in Hand2Paw.  They volunteer at local shelters to help socialize and train the dogs, provide socialization to the cats and kittens through gentle handling, bathe the many animals rescued from a filthy life on the streets and comfort the sick, orphaned animals.

By performing these tasks, the teens are learning professional skills and responsibility.  Internships are provided for some of the youth interested in pursuing a career with animals.

How You Can Help

Hand2Paw is still in its infancy and is not a non-profit organization, so no formal fundraising is yet possible.  But, Rachel has made it to the semi-finals for a potential Students in Service Awards™ grant. Please help her by voting.

You can vote as often as you like, so please do!  Aside from the possibility of a $5,000 academic scholarship, Rachel could win a $2,500 grant for Hands2Paws.  This will go a long way in helping fund the paid internships – a major part of the Hands2Paw program.

If you like this idea, why not spread the word?  Ask around your local areas if anyone would like to start a similar program.  Surely, not every homeless teen will enjoy working with animals, but a program like Hand2Paw will provide those who are drawn to pets a way to develop self esteem while helping other, less fortunate creatures.

Way to go, Rachel!

Related Stories: 

From Foster Care to Homelessness: California’s Epidemic of Abandoned Youth

Homeless in Highschool

Video Tribute to Homeless Senior Animals

 

 

Read more: , , , , , , , ,

Photo by Amy DiDomineco - of two Hand2Paw youth volunteers socializing kittens - used with permission.

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229 comments

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9:16AM PDT on Mar 24, 2012

What a wonderful idea! I hope those involved experienced healing within their souls and found some love that they were denied earlier in their life and generally from society.

2:03AM PST on Dec 15, 2011

COMPASSION

The definition is: wanting others to be free from suffering.
This compassion happens when one feels sorry with someone, and one feels an urge to help.
The near enemy is pity, which keeps other at a distance, and does not urge one to help.
The opposite is wanting others to suffer, or cruelty.
A result which one needs to avoid is sentimentality.
Compassion thus refers to an unselfish, de-tached emotion which gives one a sense of urgency in wanting to help others. From a Buddhist perspective, helping others to reduce their physical or mental suffering is very good, but the ultimate goal is to extinguish all suffering by stopping the process of rebirth and the suffering that automatically comes with living by reaching enlightenment.

The attitude of a so-called Bodhisattva is Bodhicitta: this is the ultimate compassionate motivation: the wish to liberate all sentient beings from the sufferings of cyclic existence and to become a fully enlightened Buddha oneself in order to act as the perfect guide for them. Actually, this could well be the most honorable and idealistic motivation possible.

2:03AM PST on Dec 15, 2011

COMPASSION

The definition is: wanting others to be free from suffering.
This compassion happens when one feels sorry with someone, and one feels an urge to help.
The near enemy is pity, which keeps other at a distance, and does not urge one to help.
The opposite is wanting others to suffer, or cruelty.
A result which one needs to avoid is sentimentality.
Compassion thus refers to an unselfish, de-tached emotion which gives one a sense of urgency in wanting to help others. From a Buddhist perspective, helping others to reduce their physical or mental suffering is very good, but the ultimate goal is to extinguish all suffering by stopping the process of rebirth and the suffering that automatically comes with living by reaching enlightenment.

The attitude of a so-called Bodhisattva is Bodhicitta: this is the ultimate compassionate motivation: the wish to liberate all sentient beings from the sufferings of cyclic existence and to become a fully enlightened Buddha oneself in order to act as the perfect guide for them. Actually, this could well be the most honorable and idealistic motivation possible.

2:02AM PST on Dec 15, 2011

“Compassion is most important for happiness. We must treat fellow human beings as equal, that is very important, but also all beings who have capacity for feeling. So the innate desire for happiness that is the basis of human rights extends to all sentient beings, including animals and insects. There are now some individuals and organizations who care about animal rights and are showing concern about the suffering or torture of animals. I have noticed among ordinary people, out of their love and compassion, growing efforts for promotion of vegetarianism. These are the right kinds of expression of compassion, very positive and encouraging signs.”—His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama

3:44PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

I'm glad to see that she won. Programs like this are a great help to society in general. These youth are learning how to treat animals in a respectful, and caring manner, which will only help them in life. I wish this program all the best and I hope it is around for a very long time (I'd like to say short since such programs shouldn't have to exist, but reality unfortunately, isn't so kind. There will be homeless youth and animals for quite a while yet).

8:26AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

Wonderful! What a wonderful world it would (will) be when we realize that every person and every creature has a special purpose and is needed. I hope more programs like this spring up.

7:50AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

This is beautiful.

7:09AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

No animal should be put to death (I dislike euphemisms)just because he has no home...with that philosophy homeless and /or babies that are not adopted shoull be killed too...well no one would support that (least of all myself) because having no home is no crime and because you can`t dispose of lives so liberally...unfortunately ,these considerations don`t come into the picture when it refers to animals...pure speciesm!The very fact that these homeless people want to help animals shows their empathy to defenceless beings who suffer the same fate,being destitute and out in the cold...(or the heat,the weather and elements are hard to those without home,either human or animals)These people deserve all the help they can get.

6:48AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

I t is truly amazing what people can do when they put their minds to it. Rachel is an excellent example of taking a negative and making something positive come out of it. I applaud her for her ingenuity.

6:22AM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

What a wonderful idea! Way to go, Rachel!

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