When bad things happen to children, it can be hard for them to understand and process what is happening. If children see repetitive patterns of abuse and violence, they can become desensitized and begin to objectify other people, animals, and even themselves, perpetuating the cycle of violence and trauma.
We want to help break that cycle as best we can. Clinical psychologist Valerie Holmstrom, Ph.D., has written a new book to help children understand how they can recover from abuse or trauma. Bo-Peep is My Name is about a brave rescued dog who runs away from an abusive situation to find a new forever home. The story serves as a metaphor for abuse, trauma, and recovery. The book is illustrated and designed by Charleston-based illustrator Tami Boyce. I am humbled to serve as the editor and creative consultant for the project.
To ensure the book’s mission is successful, we have partnered with Healing Species™ Compassion Education and Violence Prevention Program in Orangeburg, SC. The book will be included in their award-winning educational curriculum backed by the South Carolina Department of Education, which reaches more than 3,000 at-risk kids in South Carolina every year. Healing Species™ also rescues “last resort” dogs and gives them a new beginning. Rescued dogs then help teach the compassion education curriculum in schools, find a new loving home, or live at the Healing Species™ Animal Sanctuary.
The book will be self-published, and we have created a Kickstarter campaign to cover initial production costs such as illustration, design, publishing, and distribution. Rewards include a signed paperback copy of the book, multiple book packages, and you can even have a book sent to the school or organization of your choice. Once the Kickstarter is complete and the book is published, proceeds from future book sales will go towards Healing Species™ programs.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Healing Species™ sanctuary and attend a class at Denmark-Olar Elementary School in Denmark, SC. Denmark is a rural town in Bamberg County with a population of 2,968 in 2017 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A dilapidated house sits directly across from the school, a dismal reminder of the hardships that have come to the area over the years.
My experience with the 4th-grade class at Denmark-Olar really helped put into perspective the impact that Bo-Peep and Healing Species™ can have and why the book is such an important project. The children lit up when they walked in to see Baxter, a black lab mix waiting to help teach their class that day. They recited what they had discussed in previous classes and enthusiastically answered questions. They were delighted to pet Baxter and hear his story. Some students shared details about their own lives and experiences with animals, some of which were reassuring, and others simply heartbreaking.
Even in just my short time observing the class, the children seemed to be understanding, processing and applying the lessons they were learning to their own lives. Some children stood up a little straighter, smiled a little brighter, and all were told they were deserving of love no matter their circumstances. Healing Species™ is truly changing lives.
We can’t choose who we are born to, or what circumstance we come into, where we live, the color of our skin, or even what can happen to us. We have to work with the cards dealt to us and for many children in South Carolina and beyond, the odds just aren’t fair. Those children deserve to have a resource like Bo-Peep available to them for comfort as they endure hard situations. The story can offer hope, reassurance, and understanding when everything else may seem terrible.
Before the Kickstarter began, I sent a copy of the book to my high-school classmate Emilie Jones, who is a public school teacher in the Bronx, NY, and also a Big Apple Award Winner. Her students are of a vulnerable population as well, and I asked her to share some of their thoughts on the book with us. Here’s a touching review from Diana Garcia:
“This book is amazing. It captures the feelings of how a dog that’s being abused by its owner takes the chance to run away from its home without a second thought. “Bo-Peep” resembles the feelings of what kids who are being abused or came from a abusive family feel and have dealt with. “Bo-Peep” goes through the feelings of having hope to doubt. This book tells a story of a dog being unwanted to finally having a home to be happy in and knowing they have a place in the world. I encourage kids to read this book and I encourage kids who have dealt with traumatic abusive relationships, physically or emotionally, to read this book and realize there is hope to have a better life and they have a reason and purpose to have hope that they are wanted in this world.”
I ask you to please consider backing our project and sharing it with your friends and family, not just because we have poured our hearts and souls into it, but because it will provide invaluable support for children who need it most. Please help us break the cycle of abuse and trauma for kids and back our Kickstarter campaign today.