Between producing Hemp Heroe energy bars here in town to helping youth via equine therapy, for Gemma Ra’Star, founder of the local nonprofit Wumaniti Earth Native Sanctuary, everything gets back to healing. She sat down with The Taos News to talk …
Between producing Hemp Heroe energy bars here in town to helping youth via equine therapy, for Gemma Ra’Star, founder of the local nonprofit Wumaniti Earth Native Sanctuary, everything gets back to healing. She sat down with The Taos News to talk about making safe spaces for kids, working with horses and drumming up support within the community.
Tell me a little about yourself.
My name is Kristin DiFerdinando, but I’m better known as Gemma Ra’Star. I am a self-made entrepreneur and mother. I have two daughters. I came to Taos in a van with two dogs 15 years ago. I’ve lived many lives since.
What is Wumaniti?
I founded Wumaniti Earth Native Sanctuary in 2011, and in 2015, we became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We provide different programs, all supporting youth and integrating traditional cultures. The nonprofit was created for a safe and clean place for children and elders to come and have fun and be themselves — kind of like Never Neverland, it’s a place for the wild kids.
So what types of programs does Wumaniti offer?
We have an equine therapy program we do at my house at Taos Pueblo. We are working with a few local nonprofits in town that work with youth and elders. We strongly believe equine therapy heals, and that’s what our program is based on — all our programs are to find natural ways of healing.
I’ve been many people in this life and had a really incredible journey. I was a very lost kid and teenager. What really brought me back into my body was working with horses.
How many horses are there? What do you do with them?
So there’s six horses in our program. We do a variety of breath work, meditation, yogic moves and such on the horses. And bareback riding. Essentially, what we’re doing is putting together a European gypsy circus based on traditional cultures that are a way of life. First, we get the kids breathing and working with the horses. And we dress up the horses, do parades. We are working on opening up an actual equestrian facility as well as self-sustainable greenhouses to grow all the ingratiates for our products.
What is the biggest obstacle to providing equine therapy?
It’s getting enough money. We have all these people who want to give us horses, but we’re a nonprofit and survive off of donations. We really need more people to step up and support us. We’re looking for more volunteers and benefactors; if we could just balance those two. But we’re doing really, really good. I’ve raised over $150,000 this year for the nonprofit.
I take it keeping horses is fairly expensive.
That’s fairly expensive. Our Youth Arts and Music program is fairly expensive, and the sacred circles and our Grow Food Now program.
I saw on Wumaniti.com you make an energy bar. Tell me about the products y’all make.
Hemp Heroe, a hemp food energy bar, is part of our Grow Food Now program. We make them at the [Taos County Economic Development Corp.]. All the profits support our programs, especially our equine therapy as well as the Youth, Arts, and Music program. The Hemp Heroe was actually inspired by my 9-year-old daughter. I’ve made cannabis food for the last 15 years, [including a cannabis energy bar] Buddha Bar. My daughter wanted me to be known for making a kids’ Buddha Bar, something that doesn’t have cannabis in it. Hemp Heroe bars have 23 grams of protein, 21 grams of fiber and 486 milligrams of potassium. We’re selling them at Cid’s, Taos Market – and we’ll be in Whole Foods here in New Mexico come spring.
What was it like to get the bars into Whole Foods?
We are still working on it. Really, it’s [a] challenge to make food products in New Mexico. It takes a really long time to get approved. We started making our Hemp Heroe bars in Colorado, but we brought it back to Taos because our vision, the Hemp Heroe vision, is supporting economic development in cultural communities by growing hemp and creating jobs. Our vision is to grow all the ingredients for our bars.
My nonprofit also offers safety and guidance on how to use smoke and topically take cannabis. We’re working a lot with veterans right now.
Do you have partnerships with other organizations?
We’ve worked with the Oo-Oo-Nah Arts Center for the past three years, which is the Taos Pueblo children’s art center. We’ve raised money through our nonprofit to help keep it open. This year, we raised $1,011 for toys for Taos Pueblo children and spent $1,000 on presents from Taos Pueblo artists at the Oo-Oo-Nah Arts Center’s Annual Holiday Arts and Craft Show.
And what about the Youth Arts and Music program?
There’s two sides of it. One side is making arts and crafts. The other side is dressing up, singing, doing music videos with the horses and doing music videos with traditional cultures. It’s showing kids there are fun ways to get high, and you don’t have to have sex, you don’t have to drink alcohol and do drugs, you don’t have to have drama or pull out a gun. We’re here to have safe spaces with no drama — just pure, clean energy. Spaces where kids can be high adrenaline and be themselves.
My biggest problem was I was way out there, and I still am. My parents tried to give me drugs from the psychiatrist. They didn’t know better. It made me even worse and threw me into a dark rabbit hole. We have so many intelligent kids whose families don’t understand them or they’re having problems in society because society is really messed up — society, it’s poison and toxic in so many ways.
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