Holidays and birthdays can be a lot of pressure for all of us. As they approach, they carry a heavy sense of how things “ought to be.” Many of us become busy and anxious trying to make that dream of a healthy, happy holiday come true.
Let’s try something: On Google Images, search “Thanksgiving,” “Christmas,” or “holidays.” What comes up? For me, it’s a tree piled with gifts. People singing, celebrating what they’ve been given. A unified family praying over a hot meal.
How do these images make you feel? Warm and happy? Excited? Joyful? Unity, generosity, and gratitude are good things, and we should affirm them when we see them.
But maybe all is not “calm and bright.”
Maybe all those “good things” aren’t what you’re experiencing this holiday season. Perhaps your home environment hasn’t always been the best, and maybe you find yourself in a hospital, group home or specialized foster situation. Maybe you miss the traditions and food of your own home and culture. Family members may be struggling or in prison for the holidays. Maybe you’ve experienced exploitation at the hands of someone you trusted, and your heart is hurting. Or the people in your house aren’t people you feel like sharing a meal with.
HOLIDAYS AND BIRTHDAYS REMIND US THAT LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO BE JOYFUL. THAT FAMILIES ARE SUPPOSED TO BE LOVING AND UNIFIED. FOR MANY CHILDREN IN LOVE146’S SURVIVOR CARE — AND FOR SOME OF US — THESE THINGS JUST AREN’T WHAT LIFE HAS LOOKED LIKE. AND THAT HURTS.
Many young people in Love146’s Survivor Care struggle around birthdays and big holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In the U.S., this sometimes means running away from their homes or foster placements. Running away around the holidays is complicated but understandable. Youth often express that they just want to be with friends, or be “normal” and in control of their situation. Sometimes they run to their extended or biological families, even if that’s not a safe option.
Bottom line: The holiday season can be an especially challenging time of year for young people who are experiencing separation (emotional as well as physical) from the people they love. And it’s even harder if they’ve been through the isolating experience of trauma.
LOVE146 IS DETERMINED TO DO WHAT IT TAKES TO HELP THE CHILDREN IN OUR CARE FEEL IMPORTANT AND LOVED AROUND THE HOLIDAYS.
Our U.S. Survivor Care social workers are helping youth celebrate by visiting with them and bringing them presents. Special efforts are being taken to ensure that youth who are in the hospital, group homes, or other placements this season know that they are cared for.
This year, in the U.K., the generosity of our donors allowed us to give special holiday gifts to the young survivors of trafficking we work with there. We even threw a holiday party for them. (One young person we support actually decided to dress up as Santa and give out gifts to his fellow Love146 clients from a big bag!)
In our safe homes in the Philippines, many children understandably miss their families even more on their birthdays and on Christmas. Sometimes it’s an option for them to go visit their parents and siblings on these special occasions. If so, we help them make the trip and support them. But in our safe homes, we go caroling nearby, play music, and take special outings. And birthdays…well, those are really something special! We throw parties with the kids’ favorite food, share cake and ice cream, and take the chance to celebrate each child as an individual and an important member of our community.
We hope you have a sense of how important your support is to children this holiday season. You are a part of a loving family for young survivors of trafficking and exploitation. As two of our clients share: