IHE M.Ed. grad Anne Ward lives on the Dog River in Berlin, Vermont. She says, “Most of my career so far has been spent in animal welfare and sheltering. Recent years have seen a slow transition to the human services field, where I now work primarily with adults who support children.”

Currently Anne serves as a foster parent, a humane educator, and a child sexual abuse prevention trainer at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

We asked Anne to share about her work for a better world.

IHE: What led you to the path of humane education?

AW: I grew up wondering how our world could be a kinder place and what I could do to help. Halfway through my undergraduate program (music education) a professor asked us to picture our lives ten years in the future. I looked forward, and I wasn’t satisfied; so I changed.

IHE: Share how you’re currently manifesting humane education/changemaking.

AW: My husband and I have been foster parents for more than four years and have had more than two dozen children come through our home, for anywhere from an overnight to more than a year.

We support all ages and specialize in babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). My experience with foster care is that it shatters you to the very core of what it means to be a human being and demands that you build yourself back up, over and over again.

It’s the hardest work I’ve ever done, but what we know is that if kids have to do hard things, adults can do hard things with them.

How do I type joy? On July 27 of this year, we adopted two daughters, 15-year-old Desiree and 10-month-old Charlotte.

The child sexual abuse prevention training work that I am doing is different from what most of us grew up with. Instead of placing the responsibility of victimization on the child by telling them to say “No!” and to get an adult, newer prevention work focuses on training adults to teach and model healthy and nurturing relationships and to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse.

This work acknowledges and attempts to reshape the negative societal influences that contribute to an incredibly dangerous culture for children. It gives me great hope for the future for our children.

IHE: Share a success story and/or a story that shows the impact of your humane ed work.

AW: I’m an outspoken advocate for humane euthanasia of animals when appropriate, and that means confronting social norms that create inhumane situations for animals. For this reason, I operate an unofficial rabbit sanctuary at my home, where I train rabbits to live safely and happily outdoors, whose human-caused aggressive behaviors would otherwise result in euthanasia. Below is a photo of my daughter, Desiree, with a rabbit in stage three of her transition to freedom—already feeling safe enough for us to see the end of her kicking, barking, lunging, and biting behaviors!

Desirae with a rescued bunny

IHE: One of your specialties is leading workshops about compassion fatigue. What are a couple of your top tips for helping humane educators deal with/avoid compassion fatigue?

AW: 1)  Know yourself and be able to identify your needs at any moment. Being able to say, “I need _____ right now,” is an important step to being healthy enough to meet the needs of others.

2)  Understand trauma—how it impacts you and others emotionally, mentally, and physically.

3)  Use Humane Communication—how we communicate with others is as crucial as the content of our communications.

IHE: What are your future plans for your humane education/changemaking work?

AW: The last year has brought new trauma, transition, and joy to my life. I’m going to practice what I preach and focus right now on my new family and current changemaking activities. Who knows what the future could bring?!

IHE: What would you say to others interested in IHE’s graduate programs?

AW: IHE’s graduate program helped me learn how to practice inquiry and question assumptions and cultural norms. Even though I didn’t directly practice humane education immediately after graduation, I approached my work with a whole new framework of understanding and evaluation. The skills I learned and practiced have carried through my adult life and choice making.