So many feelings about this tragedy

Apr 16, 2023

This post is not about every child who experiences trauma. Not all children who experience trauma will resort to violence. This post is about how early intervention can be a lifeline and can help children to cope non-violently with trauma.

I feel compelled to write something just about once a season as the world experiences another violent event.

I couldn’t sleep Wednesday night after hearing about the death of 17 year old Ethan Bespflug on a Surrey bus. I cringe when I hear the details: a text from Ethan to his best friend said that there was a girl on the bus who didn’t like him and he was going to try and get off; a text to his mom said there’s some kids threatening me and I’m scared; a young person on the bus was carrying a concealed knife.

I am heartbroken for Ethan’s family and friends.

But I am mostly angry. Angry at the lack of government funding for early intervention programs for children.

David Eby said of the fatal stabbing. “Transit needs to be safe and accessible for kids, for seniors, for everybody. I understand that the Surrey RCMP and the Transit Police increased patrols and presence on Surrey Transit. I’ve asked the minister for public safety to reach out to transit authorities and to police authorities to see if there is any other tools or resources that they need to ensure safety on our transit system for everybody.” 

Of course transit needs to be safe and accessible and Ethan’s killer needs to be behind bars. But funding also needs to go towards intervention to help youth before they become violent and before they start carrying knives on the bus.

Since being evicted and finding a temporary home which is unfortunately unsuitable for children, Kindred Farm hasn’t been able to run our children’s program for 18 months which means 100 at-risk children have not been helped.

Our government has failed the children but thankfully our kind community has stepped up to help purchase farm land for our Early Animal-Assisted Intervention program. We are just $350,000 shy of making on offer on 5-10 acres of farm land in Langley. I can’t wait to start up our children’s program again and help children learn non-vilolent coping strategies. I can’t wait to help transform children’s lives.

During my Bachelor of Science in Humane Leadership studies I took a class called, First Strike: An Introduction to the Connection Between Animal Abuse & Interpersonal Violence.  My teacher was Dr. Randall Lockwood who is one of the world’s leading experts on animal cruelty.  I started learning about root causes of violence and how interconnected it is.  I began to understand that when you talk about partner abuse, senior abuse, child abuse and animal cruelty they are all tightly interwoven together. One of my text books was “Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention.” by Frank R. Ascione and Phil Arkow and I re-read it every year.

I decided in 2008 that I wanted to be involved in the prevention of violence to children and animals and so I started Kindred Farm (previously called SALI’s Farm).

Preventing violence.  That sounds so daunting. We deal with some very sad stories at Kindred Farm. But….. we pair these stories with taking care of animals who give unconditional love in return and that really makes our work a joy.  That makes Kindred Farm a happy place for children who have experienced violence and trauma.

Children who have unresolved trauma, who are invisible, who have no support system will be left to find their own way. Many times this leads to tragedies – substance abuse, animal cruelty, criminal activities, generational cycle of abuse as perpetrator or victim, homelessness or suicide.

As Mr. Rogers said, “look to the helpers.”  Our animals are ready to help. Our animals will bring smiles and laughter to this world that needs more love and kindness to both animals and people.

One of our support letters in our Business Plan
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