Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:20AM - 606 Views

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In an age of unprecedented violence directed at children, often by children, psychologists, religious leaders, teachers, psychiatrists, and nurses agree: compassion can and must be taught. Indraloka Animal Sanctuary, based in Mehoopany, teaches compassion in northeast Pa.

Hosting area school groups, including students from Scranton High School, Scranton Prep, Abington Heights and private children's clubs, Indraloka helps children of all ages understand the value of life.

In his book Compassion Made Easy, Northwestern psychology professor Dr. David DeSteno found that humans frequently find it easier to feel compassion for animals because of animals' ability to display unconditional love. Once children begin to develop deeper compassion towards animals, that compassion can be expanded to include humans more and more, even humans who are considered difficult to empathize with.

At Indraloka, students from pre-K through high school learn about farm animals, the environment and the choices they make daily to contribute to their own health and a kinder, greener world, while interacting with the once-frightened but now calm and loving animal residents of Indraloka.

So much of what we do in our everyday lives involves degrees of stress and at such a quick pace, said Mike Freidlin, science teacher at Abington Heights and faculty advisor for the popular 8th-12th grade ecology clubs. The time we spend at Indraloka Animal Sanctuary is quite the opposite. The animals remind us of what is most important...compassion, sincerity, friendship and patience. Their pace is deliberate and with purpose. As an educator of many years, I can, with genuine honesty, claim that the time I have spent with my students in the company of the animals at Indraloka is as valuable a classroom lesson as any I have ever given. What we take from the sanctuary are lessons quickly incorporated into our own lives, and not soon forgotten.

Marie Donnelly, a teacher at Scranton Prep added, My students learned not only about the conditions in which animals lived prior to coming to the sanctuary, but also how much work it takes to keep the animals healthy and happy.

Donnelly, who also serves as faculty advisor for the school's Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals club, said behavioral change in her students has begun because of their visit to Indraloka. The students worked directly with the animals. Talking about their [the students'] role in the life and death of animals is a bit easier now, Donnelly added.

Indraloka sits on 30 acres of Mehoopany farmland, and contains four barns and numerous smaller structures that house 160 animals, including horses, pigs of all sizes and breeds, cows, mules, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, cats, geese, ducks, three dogs and one peacock.

Indraloka also provides workshops and events on numerous topics. On January 13, the sanctuary will host Family Storytelling, an afternoon of traditional Native American and new tales about animals told around a bonfire, coupled with an introduction to the animals at the sanctuary, and including hot cider and treats. For those looking for a workshop closer to home, Learn to Talk with Your Animal Friends, a four- week course, will be offered by the sanctuary at Everything Natural in Clarks Summit on Sunday afternoons during the last two weeks of February and first two weeks of March.

In keeping with Indraloka's mission to foster respect and care for the environment as well as animals, Marywood University architect students, led by assistant professor of architecture Kate O'Connor, employ sustainable building methods when creating additional structures for the sanctuary's growing rescued animal population.

Local organizations that provide instrumental support to Indraloka include P&G, Everything Natural in Clarks Summit, Marywood University and the ASPCA.

For information, contact Lynn Braz, Community Outreach, at 415.279.0777 or lynn@lynnbraz.com.

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