BY KATHLEEN BOLUS
Indra Lahiri noticed people were driving slowly past the Indraloka Animal Sanctuary in Dalton.
“They’d stop and say, ‘Oh we just wanted to get a glimpse of (the animals),’ ” said Lahiri, sanctuary founder. “I could see that they really needed them right now.”
The sanctuary, with locations in Dalton and Mehoopany, is home to many rescued farm animals, including cows, horses, goats, pigs and chickens. While they closed the doors to outside visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic, the sanctuary is virtually connecting people with animals, encouraging children to become animal pen pals with the rescued animals.
Students in the sanctuary’s Hopeful Heros program — which gives opportunities to low income and at-risk children and teens in the areas of art, music, technology and physical activity — helped create the Animal Pen Pals program.
“Sometimes it’s just the sweetest thing, like, ‘My favorite meal is macaroni and cheese,’ ” she said. “Then sometimes it’s real stuff, ‘My sister is mad at me,’ ‘It’s hard having everybody at home,’ or ‘I miss school.’ ”
Students who sign up for the program will receive a name and picture of a sanctuary animal. They can email the animals or send a hard copy letter to the sanctuary.
If they send a hard copy letter, the sanctuary will send back a stamped envelope and a piece of paper to write back.
Through the letters, the children are writing, reading and telling stories, Lahiri said. And the sanctuary’s staff loves the program. They sit with the animals while responding back to the children, Lahiri said.
“The animals love it when we read the letters from the kids,” she said.
The sanctuary is also offering: The Indraloka Liberation Meditation Series, a digital meditation opportunity within the natural setting of the sanctuary.
“It gives people the chance to breathe with the animals,” she said.
They also are offering Hopeful Heroes online and Sanctuary Stories that Save Us, a podcast launching this month sharing the animal’s stories with life lessons embedded in them, according to a news release.
Indraloka is partnering with the Lacawac Sanctuary in Lake Ariel to offer the virtual programs. Lahiri encourages anyone interested in the programs to subscribe.
For more details, visit www.indraloka.org.
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