We received this beautiful update today from Dr. Velazco, Love146 Director of Aftercare. One of our girls who had been reintegrated back into a community from our safehome (Round Home) came back for a visit. Here is Dr. Velazco’s account:
“Yesterday *Nira came back home to the Round Home for a visit. This morning I asked her what makes her want to come back to the Round Home from time to time.
She became nostalgic and cried.
She said she remembers when they were still complete here, having fun, chatting, singing, playing the guitar. She just misses everybody. She said she was very happy here because of the people and the beautiful place. This was her family, her home.
I asked her what the most important thing she learned in the Round Home was while she was here. She said it was becoming strong. She said she developed strength because of the support of the staff and the other children.
I asked her about the things that she experienced for the first time when she came to the Round Home. She said it was having a loving family. The Round Home staff and children were her family that she never had before. She also experienced being truly loved and being happy for the first time. She experienced being respected for the first time. Such respect, she said, she never experienced before.
She said that for this kind of family, joy, love, and respect, she will always come back to the Round Home.
I also asked another one of our girls, *Maria, about the things that she experienced for the first time when she came to the Round Home. Her answers were quick and sure.
She said she first came to know love, to give to others, to know God, and to be treated like a real daughter. It was her first time to actually be “heard.” It was her first time not to be told hurtful things by adults.
She said, “It was my first time not to be bothered about the past anymore. You were the ones who helped me forget about the past.”
She said it was her first time to really look at herself and accept herself and her experiences and introduce herself to others with courage.
She said it was her first time to go to school. It was her first time to have a happy Christmas. It was her first time to have quarrels and have those quarrels quickly sorted out, so that now, for the first time, she has no enemies anymore.”
When I read this report, I was deeply moved, humbled and challenged. The “firsts” that so many of us take for granted are life-changing for children who have waited far too long to experience them. Education, respect, family, love, joy, etc.
We will change this. We will continue to provide “home”, family, care and love for children like Nira and Maria. We will restore and empower children, and see them “becoming strong”, moving from “victims” & “survivors” to “thrivers.”
But we will also work to protect and defend the innocent and vulnerable, preventing the exploitation from happening to begin with. We will continue to ensure that “firsts” happen for children…when they’re supposed to happen…while they are children.
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* Pseudonyms have been used to protect the children who Love146 serves