On Friday June 22 I attended an event at Ndlalambi Nazarene Preschool put on by Vusumnotfo. This event was aimed at promoting positive interactions with animals. It is in conjunction with the upcoming community spay day scheduled for June 30.
I accompanied James Tsabedze from Vusumnotfo. He walked in with Ziggy, a Jack Russel dog, on a leash. Dogs in eSwatini are not seen the same as pets in America. Dogs tend to roam freely, are used for security, and can be heard fighting in the night; so this was a very different sight for everyone!
Although the children were excited about having visitors, they were afraid of Ziggy. James stroked Ziggy gently and invited the children to touch her. Some refused, some hid behind the group to avoid being called, only a few hesitantly touched Ziggy with one finger before retracting.
To make inroads, James sat down and held Ziggy so she did not squirm so much. While petting Ziggy, James asked the children “would you like someone to pull on your ears; would you like someone to hit you; would you like someone to throw a stone at you?” (These are all typical ways in which people interact with dogs in eSwatini.)
As the children answered the questions, James told them, “If you would not like someone to pull on your ears, then you know that Ziggy would also not like someone pulling on her ears. And if you would not like someone hitting you, then you know that Ziggy also would not like someone hitting her.” James chatted with the children about how to treat animals and other people with respect.
As the children engaged in the discussion, they collectively became more relaxed and one-by-one started coming forward to pet Ziggy. Guiding these small but critical interactions are extremely important for children in eSwatini, a country where corporal punishment is the norm, and animals are regularly chased, chided, and beaten.
Witnessing the children changing their behavior in just a short period of time gave me a great deal of hope for what continued efforts down this path can produce, in creating positive interactions between children and animals, and in increasing empathy between people and family members as well.
Your support helps Vusumnotfo carry out these small but significant educational events. Combined with the upcoming community spay day, this project creates positive examples that contribute towards shifting social norms, one child, one parent, one dog / cat at a time. Thank you.
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