The Gentle Barn: A Place Where Animals, and People, Can Find Healing



Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. On our show this week:

We answer a question about the Marshall Plan ...

Play music from Mary Chapin Carpenter ...

And report about a place that helps animals heal.

Gentle Barn

Gentle Barn is a place where abused animals can find a home. Ellie Laks started Gentle Barn in nineteen ninety-nine. Faith Lapidus has more about this special place.


Like many people, Ellie Laks loves animals. She has turned that love into an effort to save abused animals and help young people at the same time.

Gentle Barn is a ranch on more than two hectares of land in Santa Clarita, California. It is a place where abused animals can find shelter and care. Miz Laks has rescued sixty farm animals including horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys. Some had been raised for food. Others were in petting zoos where they did not receive the care they needed. All have been saved from some form of abuse.

Ellie, her husband, Jay Weiner, and others provide treatment and care for the animals at Gentle Barn. Twenty to thirty people offer to work with the animals without pay. The animals usually grow to accept and love people. And they build close relationships with their keepers.

Visitors can touch and hold animals they would normally never have a chance to see. As many as three hundred visitors come to Gentle Barn each week. Most are young people ages four to eighteen. Some are from inner city schools. Some are children with special needs. Some of the children were abused or come from families with problems.

Ellie Laks says the animals provide examples for the young people that abuse can be overcome. She says young people see a different side of themselves when they are near animals. They feel they can develop a connection with an animal whose story is similar to their own.

Since it opened, Gentle Barn has had more than one hundred thousand visitors. Ellie Laks and Jay Weiner dream of some day opening Gentle Barns all over the world.

You can visit Gentle Barn and read the stories of many of the animals online at

The Marshall Plan


Our VOA Listener question this week comes from Ghana. David Dakura asks us to explain the Marshall Plan.

The Marshall Plan was part of an American policy to help Europe recover after the Second World War in the nineteen forties. The war had destroyed the economies of many countries in Europe.

The United States and its allies were concerned that communist governments would take control of many of these countries unless they took action.

First, Congress agreed to provide hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Greece and Turkey. Then, President Truman and his advisers developed a plan to rebuild the economies of European countries. Secretary of State George Marshall visited Europe in nineteen forty-seven. He was shocked by what he saw. Europe was ruined. People were cold and starving because of a lack of fuel and food. And they were starting to suffer from diseases like tuberculosis.

Secretary Marshall announced his plan to the graduating class at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He promised that the United States would do "whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world."

Marshall Plan aid was offered to all countries in Europe. The Soviet Union and its allies refused the help. But sixteen other countries welcomed the aid. The Economic Cooperation Administration of the Marshall Plan worked with these countries from nineteen forty-eight until nineteen fifty-two. It spent thirteen billion dollars. The aid included food, fuel, raw materials, goods, loans, machines and advisers.

The Marshall Plan was a great success. It started huge economic growth in Europe. Agricultural production increased by ten percent. Industrial production increased by thirty-five percent. And stronger economies helped prevent communists from gaining control of the governments in France and Italy.

Some Europeans criticized the Marshall Plan. They said it increased tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union in the years after the war. Yet few people could argue that the Marshall Plan was one of the most successful international economic programs in history. George Marshall was recognized for his work in nineteen fifty-three when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mary Chapin Carpenter

For twenty years, Mary Chapin Carpenter has been making records that combine the sounds of rock, folk, and country music. Her tenth album, "The Calling," is filled with warm and personal songs. A few even have a strong political message. Barbara Klein has more.



That was the song "Houston." Carpenter sings about the tragic story of Hurricane Katrina victims left homeless after the storm hit in two thousand five. The person in the song remembers a home and way of life that no longer exist.

Mary Chapin Carpenter grew up in the Washington, D.C. area and now lives on a farm in Virginia with her husband. She often writes songs that deal with important questions about love, beliefs, responsibility and growing older. The words to her songs are rich with images, details, and observations. She writes about personal feelings without seeming too emotional.

Here is the title song of the album, "The Calling." Carpenter sings about the ways people look for and come to understand their purpose in life.


We close with "On With the Song." Mary Chapin Carpenter honors the three female musicians of the country music band, the Dixie Chicks. The Dixie Chicks were rejected and even threatened by many listeners for criticizing the war in Iraq and President Bush. In this song, Carpenter expresses her support for the brave musicians. She calls them "three little stars" in a big sky who fight for what they believe in and give others hope.

(MUSIC:"On With the Song")


I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. It was written by Dana Demange, Mario Ritter and Nancy Steinbach. Caty Weaver was our producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site, WWW.51VOA.COM.

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