Healing Species: Helping Children Cope With Love

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By Crandall Sims

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) -- “I know I stay in trouble a lot," says Tiesha Chestnut, student at Heyward Career Center.

Tiesha Chesnut doesn't have any problem admitting fault.

“Like with females and stuff, like when I get in trouble, like a female will say something and I have a quick temper to re-act to it," says Chestnut.

We met Tiesha at Heyward Career Center a few weeks ago. She was part of a group of teens who were learning about diversity through Healing Species.

“The drive behind the program is to reach kids with skills that will help them overcome barriers in their life," says Adele Little, Director of Healing Species.

But the program goes even further than that.

“To give them an opportunity to tell that they’ve been hurt, that they’ve been hit, with bruises, that they have been touched in a private area and that’s not ok," says Little.

But breaking down those barriers isn't always easy, but the teachers have four paws for back up.

“The dogs are really the magic of the program," says Little.

You see, the dogs involved in the Healing Species program are not your ordinary dog. The dogs also have stories of abuse, neglect or hardship; something not all, but some of the students can relate to.

“The dog is a living, breathing example that no matter what happens to you in life, that’s not what defines you," says Little.

Once the student is willing to open up about their story, the real work begins and vital lessons are learned.

“How to get help, who to tell, how to give a grieve, how to grieve for hurts in their lives and then how to heal through giving love," says Little.

The dogs are that source for givinglove. Through the students interatction with the dog they learn even more.

“How to be able to have self control and rise above the actions of others so they can change things not only for themselves but for somebody else," says Little.

And then comes a revelation.

“What defines you is your heart," says Little.

For Tiesha, that heart opened the door to a new beginning.

“I have a heart and with you having a heart, you can help others and others can help you," says Chestnut.

This isn't something Tiesha always knew before she was introduced to Healing Species, but she says the dogs opened her eyes.

“If you can care for a dog, you can care for other human beings, even when you dislike them, but you always have a heart for them," says Chestnut.

If you would like to help with or donate to the Healing Species, here's how you can do so:
The Healing Species, P.O. Box 1202, Orangeburg, SC 29116; www.healingspecies.org; (803) 535-6543; program@healingspecies.org.

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