Articles, Charities, Ensenada

Bringing Children and Horses Together In Our Community

It’s Healing & Enlightening

In the course of one’s lifetime, the people who have the most significant and lasting impact on us (besides the parents) may be a nurse, a first responder, or even a teacher or professor.

The reason that’s true is because people who enter into such enterprises do so not out of a desire to become wealthy in a material way, but rather to enrich the lives of those with whom they interact, thereby making their own lives more meaningful and rewarding.

Case in point is Dawn Stephens, who grew up in a family that valued horses as companions. Her family lived in Burbank and had a ranch outside of Bakersfield, where horses roamed freely. In that environment, she learned to ride them and care for them, doing the hard work necessary to ensure that their health and sense of physical well-being were consistently and adequately attended to.

Her interaction with these magnificent creatures was temporarily interrupted when she decided to pursue a higher education.

She attended UC Davis, later studying Sport & Exercise Psychology at the University of New Mexico, finally earning her Doctorate in the same subject from UC Berkeley.

From there, she became a Professor at the University of Iowa.

When the time came for Dawn to give back to the parents who had so lovingly cared for her as a child, she suggested that the family move to Mexico. Where they could retire and reap the benefits of the casual lifestyle and Mediterranean weather that makes Mexico such a desirable destination for so many Americans when life tells them it’s time for a change.

So they came, but little did they know that retirement was simply not in the cards for Dawn.

She began to notice almost immediately that horses, once a source of inspiration, healthy exercise, and interaction with nature back in Bakersfield, were sometimes neglected or abused in her new environment.

Dawn made up her mind to prepare and maintain a sanctuary for the creatures in need, and, with her partner, Tina Jo, co-founded Tina Jo’s Promise in Punta Banda, a rich agricultural region southwest of Ensenada.

The pair have, over the years, procured 3 1-acre lots in PB, where the horses are cared for. In many cases, the horses are sick, malnourished, and frightened when brought to the sanctuary. The actions of Dawn and Tina Jo ensure that rather than being condemned to death, they are nurtured, loved, and meticulously cared for.

Her work is arduous but rewarding. She attends auctions where horses are being sold and often has to outbid meat buyers, who would use the animals as a source of protein in dog food.

Dawn has names for each of the horses, many of which are taken from the classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. One of the beautiful creatures is named “Atticus Finch,” and another is “Harper” (after Harper Lee in the novel). Her very first rescue, however, was named Lover Boy.

Her operation is massive and expensive and is primarily dependent on public donations in order to provide the nutrition, grooming, veterinarian care and all the equipment necessary to maintain such an optimistic enterprise.

Her altruistic nature now goes beyond caring for horses.

She is active in the support of Baja Love Outreach, an enterprise that provides support for 10 orphanages in the region.

One of the many benefits she provides to the community of orphans is bringing the kids to her ranch to ride the horses or simply to pet them and enjoy the wide-open spaces outside the confines of their crowded institutions. These activities help the kids to heal from abuse or physical injuries,

Seeing the positive impact upon the children whose interactions with the animals brought them such joy, Dawn began to envision a dream whereby her efforts to improve the lives of these young orphans would ensure that their lives would be made more valuable once they were no longer wards of the system.

As she so wisely observed, “What happens to these kids when they turn 18? They are sent away from the orphanage with no further assistance. What are their prospects? Sell drugs? Enter into a life of prostitution? Work forever in an unrewarding and low-paying job, if they’re fortunate enough to find one?”

Baja Love Outreach has provided 2 cargo ship containers and had them placed on her property; these units will provide the basic structures to be modified into classrooms where the kids can come to learn skills allowing them to become proficient in a chosen profession to support them long after they leave the orphanages.

She has the wherewithal to send surveys to the kids to ascertain their interests, so that she can provide the training in the fields that interest them most.

Once she knows what the children are drawn to, she will provide training in those areas of expertise.

For example, she will provide vocational-type training for construction skills, mechanical work, computer skills, welding, sewing, etc. Some adults who are already proficient in those areas have already volunteered to provide the training.

She currently has a hydroponic fodder machine on the property.

Future plans include the development of aquaponics units; first, a large one for the ranch, then later smaller ones to be placed at each orphanage.

Aquaponics is a symbiotic system whereby live fish are nourished and the waste they accumulate is turned into bacteria, providing nourishment in the form of fertilizer to sustain a garden, which in the process of photosynthesis returns safe water to the fish.

Dawn’s vision is reflected in this statement on her website: “My religion is kindness.”

The magnitude of her love for children and for animals is awe-inspiring. By bringing them together, she improves the lives and future prospects for both.

She can’t do it alone, however. She is currently engaged in a fund-raiser to make sure that the horses have enough hay for the winter. She says that now is the time when hay is sold at the lowest price, and she would like to purchase enough of it to last one year for the animals in her care.

It costs $650 per month to provide food for the horses. If only 25 people donated $25 each per month, their most basic needs would be covered. A donation of $150 for the year by each of 50 people would help Dawn and Tina Jo provide a quality life for the horses that have thrived under their care. Their goal is to raise a total of $7,500.00 to feed the horses for a year.

Please consider making a donation to help this altruistic enterprise to continue and to grow.

Also, check out Dawn’s personal FB timeline to see the many testimonials to her loving care for both children and animals.

For more videos and photos of the heartwarming efforts on behalf of the young people and the horses, see Tina Jo’s Promise, also on FB.

Most importantly, please donate! Any amount is greatly appreciated, and will go a long way to ensure the longevity, success, and growth of this most energetic and charitable enterprise.

You can make your donation through PayPal at Donations@TinaJosPromise.org; or click on “save a life” or “adopt a horse.” You can make a one-time donation, or a monthly recurring one.

It’s a 501(c)3 organization, so any donation you make is tax-deductible by the IRS.

And remember, their mission is “to end the suffering of abused, unwanted and neglected equines and to improve the quality of their lives.”

Obviously, to help them grow is to improve the quality of life for the community at large, and by making life better for children and for animals, a better society overall is ensured.

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