Let’s talk about staff meetings. We have them every Monday and Friday morning. They can last one to three hours, and are usually about two. But, yes, that does mean that some weeks I spend six hours just in staff meetings. This is frustrating for everyone, but it’s a part of things. The meetings are good. They are important. But they are not a highlight in the week.
They’re good because they get all of us as a staff on the same page and are important platform to bring up issues and have dialogue and talk about concerns or questions. But they’re not a highlight because usually they stress me out.
There are always problems. There are always frustrations. There are always people who are unhappy. There are never-ending issues with clothes, medicine, cleaning, duties, and a certain five year old who won’t stop eating soap. We always need money. There are always girls who are running away or fighting. It can get pretty bleak.
One of our meetings last week made my heart hurt. The older girls came back from school and reported to one of us aunties that boys at school were boasting that during the tea break one of our youngerish girls was having sex with them. She’s like 8/9ish. Lived in a trash heap most of her life. Still is daily told not to play/scavenge in the area where trash is burned on the compound. It’s been said that she may be slightly autistic. She is resourceful and creative; always making interesting things out of bits she finds.
And then we talked about the other girls her age here who are having similar issues. Last weekend two of our eightish year olds were out all night at, essentially, a creepy dance club. And were, undoubtedly, voluntarily, making themselves available for all sorts of badness. (Shudder.) These girls are also having issues in their room. I won’t go into detail. But they’re basically experimenting and confused based on the pretty jacked up first few years of their young lives.
The girls who have mothers, many of them are drunks and prostitutes. They have been exposed to a lot. A LOT. Too much. And each of their precious little bodies have been touched, abused, violated. And many of them have learned to use their bodies to get what they want and/or have become to callous to care about the negative affects of such things. This happens when you are born on the streets and no one is properly looking after you.
It’s not just the one girl. Apparently a few of them are sneaking off during tea break to the cemetery to make a pound. (About 25 cents). It makes me want to vomit.
Solutions? Staff to check up on the girls at tea break. Talking with the older girls and help remind them that they should be helping look after the littler ones because we are a community. Meetings with them with our psycho-social therapist about appropriate sexual behavior and teach them to identify for themselves what is dangerous. And, if what they’re after is money to buy sweets and snacks, well we can work on that.
I haven’t been doing beads with the girls ten-and-under because I didn’t have the capacity to. I was working from two tote bags outside on the bench. There were already enough spilled beads and general chaos without the younger ones being involved. But now I have a ROOM for CRAFTS (!) and therefore have the capacity to work the with the girls in one spot, sitting down, with actual tables and chairs. They’ve been begging me for weeks to be involved and now they can.
And it may sound silly. But maybe it can help? If we can sell some of their things maybe it will give them enough pocket money to be satisfied. We also discussed at the meeting that this age bracket here is somewhat neglected as far as many of the afternoon activities go. They’re too small for sewing, life skills, going out for volleyball. And they’re too old to participate in programs with the littlest ones. So it can only help, right?
It makes you wonder, if they’re already so far gone at such a young age, if they can be brought back. And while you can’t restore innocence, you can help people to heal. I’m not a parent, but I’m sort of functioning as one of their foster parents right now. And, in my limited scope of this parental world, it ain’t no day job. Nor is it some short contract. To do it and do it right, it takes time, commitment, community and freaking ton of love. So I hope, I hope, that as these girls grow up they have enough of all of these things from responsible people who care in their lives. And I really do believe that human love intersected with the divine has healing power. And I believe he can work in these little misguided ones, too. I won’t be around forever to watch them grow up, but hopefully I can be a small part of their healing community while I’m here. Not a job for the faint of heart. But Jesus is equipping me daily, just like he’s promised to.