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Pasado’s Pen Pals brings animals, children together during COVID crisis

Isolation can be really hard when we can’t see our friends. That goes for people and for animals, like the ones at Pasado’s Safe Haven, a farm sanctuary in Sultan, Wash.

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“The animals at the sanctuary, they miss the human interaction that they used to get from tours,” said Brenna Anderst, senior education and advocacy manager at Pasado’s. “We used to have children’s groups come out to the sanctuary to visit animals.”

So, they started Pasado’s Pen Pals where children can write letters to animals at the sanctuary.

“Socialization is so important for all of us during these times, including animals,” Anderst said.

Kids can choose to write to pen pals like Stella the turkey, Smudge the goat, or Blue the cow. In return, they’ll receive a written letter back, along with a sticker or two and a photo of their new pen pal. Anderst says the animals — just like humans — love getting letters. The staff have made it a social experience for them.

“The animals are very excited to receive their mail,” Anderst said. “So, we pick the mail up from the post office, and we bring it to each of the animals, and we read them their letters – let them look at them.”

She says the pen pal program is designed to encourage connection, as well as compassion.

“Part of inspiring kindness to animals is showing that they all have their own personalities,” Anderst said.

Pasado’s published bios for each of the animals on their website, so kids can get an idea of who they’re writing to, like Stella the turkey. Anderst says Stella is a young turkey, and is very attracted to bright colors and sparkles.

“That’s written into her bio,” Anderst said. “When she gets letters, she’s really excited when there’s a lot of color on the paper because that is really, really exciting and interesting to her. We’ve had a few letters that have drawings of Stella, and that’s what she really enjoys looking at — a very visual picture and a visual letter.”

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In the three weeks since the program started, the animals have received about 50 letters of fan mail from kids. It’s been so successful that even after lock down ends, Pasado’s has decided to keep it going.

“We can all learn so much from animals, and children as well,” she says. “So, when you put them together, the result is really magical and we’re really [seeing] that with this program when you see these letters come back and forth.”

Anyone who wants to write a letter to the sanctuary — or sketch Stella a sparkly portrait — can visit Pasado’s website here for more information.

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