Teens4Animals Teaches Teens to Care for the Community

Kosmo Wojack and Lauren Ramos

     Founded by Shayna Vi and Mandi Desouza, the Teens4Animals Council is a local program in coordination with the Hawaiian Humane Society. Through various volunteer opportunities and educational courses, students are able to feed, clean and take care of animals saved by the Humane Society.

    “The reason that we established the council again is because we understand that youth have a very strong voice and we wanted to be able to continue to allow them a way to participate in the Hawaiian Humane Society and so the council took off again because again, we wanted to figure out how we could utilize teens and then kind of think bigger picture so not just using them again to volunteer on campus but to do more for the community,” said Vi. “Understanding empathy or extending empathy to people, animals and the environment and understanding how they’re all interrelated and even more so than that, like I mentioned, is for students to go back into their communities and educate people about humane education — educate them about animal welfare and to really become advocates for animals and to kind of build a more compassionate community.”

    Students join the Teens4Animals Council for various reasons. Some do it to make a difference, others to have fun with animals and friends and others to meet like-minded individuals passionate about helping animals. “I joined because I love animals. I was looking for an extracurricular activity to do outside of school and this was perfect for me,” said Junior Quinn Goo, the school’s sole representative. “Although animals are great, I really enjoy the people on the council, everybody is really nice and encouraging. Teens4Animals has provided me with so many opportunities to volunteer and give back to the communities that I love.”

    Members of the council volunteer to help out in educational events and initiatives related to animal welfare in their school and community. They also have the ability to serve as spokesman for the Humane Society, promoting programs and initiatives through media such as KITV4, Instagram and Facebook. At said events, students in the council help as much as they can, whether it be running interactive booths and games or helping set up and break down equipment after the event. “During Christmas time, I volunteered in Kailua to help with Santa Paws pictures. I helped to greet and sign people in and also talk to them while they waited in line to get their pets a picture with Santa,” said Goo.

    The Teens4Animals council strives to educate students on the well being of animals. “Really the purpose of the Hawai’i Humane Society’s Teens4Animals Council is to provide students the opportunity to learn about animal welfare and to promote responsible pet ownership in their communities,” said Desouza.

    The council leaders understand the importance of learning about the welfare of animals through the Teens4Animals program. “We expect students by the end of that training to really have a strong understanding of different issues that animals in our communities face issues like animal cruelty, neglect, abuse, things like puppy mills as well as stray and roaming cats. We’ll have some guest speakers. We will provide the opportunity for teens to meet some of the animals that we have available for adoption. We’ll have the opportunity for students to observe a spay or neuter surgery,” said Desouza.

    Vi added, “It was a four day training and our goal with that is to get students fully invested in animal welfare so not necessarily volunteering but understanding the different components of animal welfare and then taking that back to their communities and their schools.”

    Like most volunteer groups, Teens4Animals needs to externally generate funds. Last year the members chose to do a car wash to raise money for the program and it was extremely successful. The council in total raised over $3,600 that went towards adoptions, spray and neuter programs, outreach, advocacy, field services and humane education. This year, the council’s fundraising event is up to the teens. “If the Teens4Animals council is interested in doing a car wash again we would be fully supportive of that,” said Desouza.

    Recently, some of the council members volunteered at Castle High School to promote next year’s upcoming council and the Hawaiian Humane Society’s message. Their most successful event was the PetWalk Paina. “Thousands of humans and their animals walked to promote the human-animal bond,” said Goo.

    The Humane Society has been participating in the PetWalk for over 27 years, helping the Teens4Animals council fundraise and educate others on what the council is. Prior to the PetWalk, members of the council set a goal of $1,000 to raise for the walk. During the event, the council volunteered as Course Martials who cheered those participating and passed out water. “The team raised way over what the goal was,” said Vi.

    The council accepts around 15 members each school year. To take part in this opportunity, apply by May 10.