We are pleased to honor Jacalyn Bennett with this year's Strong by Nature Award. This award was developed by Merrohawke Nature School’s board of directors to recognize a member of the community who acts with the earth-minded integrity that Merrohawke hopes all children will express as adults. This individual exemplifies Merrohawke’s core values--safety, hope, education, nature connection, community, family, leadership, and respect--and demonstrates a moral compass that values and actively advances environmental and social justice in his or her community.
"My love for life, nature, its beauty, the magic of being on our planet began at a very early age. Having grown up on the beach, surrounded by Mother Nature and her sea creatures, was my refuge as a young child. I can’t recall a time when I questioned my role in embracing and protecting the beauty of our Mother Earth.In all of the years since then, my love for our Planet and its beings has compelled me to be a steward for Right Action, in particular the Protection of Women, and to giving a voice and opportunities to those who otherwise wouldn’t be so fortunate.
I learned that my best chance of helping others came through providing jobs. I founded Bennett and Company over 25 years ago, and our founding principles remain true, with focus on Ecological Awareness and Responsibility, Human Kindness, Fare Wage for Fair Work, Equality, Encouragement for Team Members to be their own personal best. I am proud to provide some 1000+ opportunities for global employment, be it in my Bennett and Company Newburyport headquarters or my wholly owned John Stuart Bennett, Guahgzhou, China garment factory. Over 75% of our global team is comprised of women. We enjoy long standing relationships with our Suppliers, many over 30+ years, whose values and focus on ecological practices align with our own.
Among the foundations of my own life, the Appreciation of Education and Art, particularly painting, have been so very important. Through my grammar school, St. Marks, I was fortunate to have been given an opportunity teach terminally ill children at Coney Island Hospital in NYC for 6 years. I also taught underprivileged children in New York City in the early 1960’s who had been virtually abandoned. These experiences taught me that every child on our planet should be loved and cared for. Teaching painting was a gift that I could give them.
To be able to create a work of art is a gift, and a process which allows the artist to experiences personal inner growth. I am fortunate to have learned the art of Italian Renaissance Landscape painting from a renowned French artist and dear friend. My philosophy is that I am responsible to share and inspire the creation of beauty, and I receive the greatest joy in teaching painting. Be it to my Newburyport team, my China Management team, the young Sri Lankan women who have taken refuge at Sarvodaya Suweseta, who include teenage mothers who are victims of rape, as well as handicapped women, all of who were cast out of their families and society.
As a member of the Board at Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, we are expanding the Omega for the Arts program curriculum to include more opportunities for appreciation of Art in our world. I will be returning in June to Omega to teach the “Breathing with the Brush” class again, which this year will incorporate gentle yogic movement breaks in the painting schedule.
Perhaps my greatest joy is in having founded the Insight Meditation Center of Newburyport, whose Mindful Meditation techniques I have practiced since my teenage years. The balance, peace and inner joy that meditation can bring to one’s existence is quite literally life changing. It is and has been my strength and foundation through everything I have experienced, be it joy or challenges. My Practice has helped me stay the course- to be able to be the person that I am proud to be."
"One of the salient problems facing us today
is children's alienation from the natural world.
They are too creeped out to touch earthworms,
they don't know where their food comes from,
and they are afraid to walk in the forest alone.
Or, if they are in the forest, they can't see the forest for their iPhones.
We, and our children, are easily seduced by the panoply of digital treats.
It is so much easier to be a couch potato than to plant potatoes.
The result is that twenty-first-century children spend
eight hours a day interacting with digital media,
and only 30 minutes a day outside.
[Let's] shape a generation of young adults who are grounded in nature,
selectively mature in their use of technology,
and committed to environmental preservation."
- author David Sobel
Your philanthropic support makes it possible for Merrohawke to serve 2,200 youth annually from families living within a 50-mile radius of Newburyport, Mass. It is our vision that every child will grow into an adult able and committed to better our world, and with this intention in our hearts and minds, we are committed to guiding learning in nature that inspires empathy, resilience, grit and a deep connection to the earth.