News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

YouthBuild helps Sisters farm - and vice versa

Harmony Farm animal sanctuary relies on volunteers for help caring for the rescued farm animals in their care.

Heart of Oregon Corps YouthBuild students visit the farm on a regular basis to participate in work parties and engage in a Compassionate Communication program designed by volunteer Carolyn Miller, based on ideas from Robine Bots, the founder of Harmony Farm. The teens learn empathy, kindness, and compassion while working with the animals. This symbiotic program benefits both the animals and the students. According to Miller, the adult volunteers can often be seen with smiles on their faces watching the students go about their tasks.

The Heart of Oregon Corps and YouthBuild are part of a large national organization. The local YouthBuild, on the corner of George Cyrus Road and Highway 126, offers several different tracks. The first program they offered locally is construction based. When students complete the program they will be eligible to test for certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). They will learn the skills necessary to be able to find a job in the skilled trades.

Their time is split. Two days a week they are in the classroom, where nine modules cover things like how to safely use power and hand tools. They also work on GED preparation or credit recovery. The rest of the time is spent in the shop, participating in service projects in the community, or engaged in the Compassionate Curriculum at Harmony Farm. They work on Habitat for Humanity homes, and this year are working at Oasis Village in Redmond, which will provide transitional housing for people on the way toward housing stability.

James Miller, a 2013 YouthBuild graduate, worked in construction, returning to YouthBuild this past April to help train the construction students. He stressed that all students don't necessarily go into construction when they are finished. Whatever their interests, they are encouraged to pursue them.

"The most important thing we do," said Miller, "is foster their interests."

A new track available to the students is early learning, to prepare them to work in the day care field. Zoe Davidman is the staff person involved in the child development training program.

Harmony Farm provides care for farm animals and poultry who have been abused, neglected, or need a safe place to live out their lives. The oldest resident on the farm is 33-year-old miniature horse Cisco, who has some arthritis. The Norwegian Fjord horse Shorty is 32. Tucker the horse is the most athletic of the equines, despite being blind in his left eye. There are four other horses/ponies and two donkeys.

The YouthBuild students came to the farm on December 4 to install a round pen and to take a portion of the equine paddock and create an obstacle course the horses will have to navigate to get to different parts of the paddock, to keep them moving and getting exercise since most of them are old and infirm.

T-posts were installed to run wire the horses will have to circumnavigate to get to other areas. A mounded area will encourage them to climb a hill. Logs on the ground need to be stepped over and a sand pit provides a nice place for them to roll. Their water source is in a patch of river rock, creating a different surface to be traversed to reach the water.

Other animals at the farm include chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, cows, goats, sheep, alpacas, and a variety of small and large pigs.

The farm also provides opportunities for children and mentors with Circle of Friends, the Bend Transition program, and the Sisters High School Life Skills class, which has been coming one time a week for eight years.


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