YUMA, Ariz. – Students at Castle Dome Middle School (CDMS) don’t just come to class to learn about home education. They come in excited knowing they’ll change lives in their community. In Ana Laura Batres’ family and consumer science class, “Operation Monkey Business” is underway. For the last two years these student have been making sock monkeys to give to Amberly’s Place, a victim center that assists victims of domestic violence and child abuse among others. Batres shared her experiences on what inspired her and her students to begin this project.
“The idea just came from a training, just a simple training on mandating and reporting, and inspired by Amanda Wellunjohn, she was one of my classmates from Cibola High School who was a victim of homicide,” said Batres.
The sock monkeys come in all shapes and sizes, and are made with materials the students bring from home. They’re sweet, and funny, and cute – the perfect companions for young survivors of abuse. In the early stages of the project, students used to sew them by hand, which took a month to make, but with a grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks, they are really turning things around averaging about 200 sock monkeys a month.
“I decided to go ahead and apply for the grant, and that’s when that got back to me, and I was so excited I couldn’t believe it because there were only 32 grants awarded for 50 thousand dollars, and 30 of those teachers were all from all over Arizona,” said Mrs. Batres.
However, that’s not all they make.
“We are also making draw string bags, that are going to be filled with hygiene products, such as shampoo, deodorant, socks, anything that our military people would need,” said Batres.
So how do the students feel about what they are doing for their community and young victims of abuse? Adam Sanchez who is one of Batres’ students said,”I feel its like a good cause, for other kids, cause if I was in their situation, they’d probably be doing this for me as well.”
Another student, Carolina Gutierrez said,”Because when it goes out to the kids, it makes them feel safe, like someone is actually there for them, just to know that they are not alone in this tough situation.”
“You see all this abuse in these kids’ life, they see the light at the end of the tunnel with these sock monkeys, and it makes me feel inside to know that these kids are getting love no matter what,” said one young lady, excited at the opportunity to make these toys.
Batres and her students say they are committed to Amberly’s Place as long as she teaches the course at CDMS, her class will be donating the sock monkeys yearly and are thankful for the opportunity to help.
“I have a particular student who one day stayed after class and told me,’Ms. Batres I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, for providing this opportunity because one of my siblings came home after being abducted from Amberly’s Place with a sock monkey,’ right then and there you know that we were making a difference, that these monkeys are going to someone who is really from here, from our town and the kids love that,” said Batres,”the kids love giving back to their community.”