Sometimes children who have been through violence have a really hard time imagining their futures. Often, young people who are suffering from the effects of trauma express that they don’t expect to survive to adulthood. Some don’t even want to.
When you’re in the middle of grief and anger, it’s hard to see yourself as a creative participant in your own bright future. But we believe this is possible. So do a lot of kids in Love146’s survivor care — and they have powerful things to teach us about the beauty of what is to come for each one of us.
1. TO GET EXCITED ABOUT THE FUTURE, YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THERE IS A FUTURE.
A little while after they come into our safe homes, kids begin to learn agency through self-care. They learn that their bodies and their hearts are capable of healing and carrying them into the future. Slowly, it becomes easier to believe they will still be healthy and standing strong in a year, five years, or thirty years. They start to imagine ways their lives can be beautiful and meaningful.
These thoughts often start out so small that we might not even call them “dreams.” But they grow bigger and bigger. “I imagine that I will someday be a kind and beautiful lady,” says Sonya. Mindy agrees: “When I grow up, my hair will be long.” Peggy adds, “I will take good care of myself, and I will always eat nutritious food just like what I’ve learned here in Round Home.” “I trust that I will have a long life,” adds another.
They are given an education so they can support themselves and their families 20 years from now. They take their vitamins so they will have healthy bones and eyes 40 years from now. Gradually, they step out of “survival mode” when all their thoughts are about what they will eat that day and where they will sleep that night. The range of their vision stretches. They start to imagine the coming months, the coming years, the coming decades.
2. SHAKE OFF FEAR OF WHAT’S TO COME
If your past is full of challenges and wounds, of course it’s hard to imagine the future being any different. And like all of us, the kids know there is no such thing as a life without pain.
How do you beat that fear? According to the children, the best way is by knowing your own strength. “I learned to stand on my own feet because of Love146,” said David. “I am like a tree,” Fe explained. “Whatever storms will come, it will remain standing.” “I know that I can surpass any trials,” said Chile. “I have learned to be strong and brave.”
They also have a complex view of the future. They know they will experience pain. But they also know that pain is not all that they will experience. “Troubles are like the rains: They will also pass,” said Jinny. “Here at Love146, I discovered that there are still good things that can happen to me, like studying,” added Marcos. Sonya says confidently, “My family and I will be free from danger and we won’t have to live in the street.”
We shouldn’t fool ourselves: Obstacles are real. Pain is real. But resilience and hope, according to the kids, are just as real as these things. As Natalia says, “No matter how tall the mountain is, I can climb it. No matter how high the sky is, I can reach it. No matter how deep the ocean is, I can swim it.”
3. NURTURE DREAMS OF YOUR OWN.
Gloria saw dreams change her life. “Before I came to the Round Home, I didn’t have any dreams. But when I came here, I started to have ideas about my future. Little by little, I started to dream.”
The safe homes are full of dreamers. Gloria now talks about someday having a house with three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a TV. Mindy says she plans to have a party every year on her birthday. Crystal hopes to have the money to go on an airplane, and Peggy hopes to plant a vegetable garden.
Some kids are planning their careers. Raul wants to be a social worker. David wants to be an engineer. Peggy wants to be a lawyer who defends children, and her sister, Sonya, wants to care for the elderly.
And a lot of them want to help other people dream big. Mae wants to have children and take them to see beautiful places in the world. Keith wants to become a pilot so he can take his children to new places. “I want them to feel that dreaming is not impossible.”
Dreams don’t have to be concrete to be important. Mindy says that when she grows up, “I want to give love to other people just like the love that was given to me by the Round Home.”
Hope is a powerful fuel. Jinny says, “I keep on helping myself heal, because I have dreams to achieve.”
4. BE INSPIRED BY PEOPLE AROUND YOU PURSUE THEIR DREAMS
Having a dream is hard enough. Keeping a dream is even harder. Daily life keeps us busy. Obstacles make our futures seem farther away. We wrestle with insecurities and doubts: Could we really do it? Can we really make it to our goals?
If our dreams are going to stay alive, we have to remind ourselves as often as we can that dreams do come true. We have to surround ourselves with people who are dreaming just like we are.
So in the Love146 safe homes, we try to dream out loud. David, for example, talked about learning to drive for a long time, and a lot of his friends about this goal. Now, he’s enrolled in driving school! “Before, I was just a boy who dreamed to drive a car, but now through the help of Love146, I’m achieving this dream.” And all of Love146 is celebrating with him. On top of that, the younger kids in the safe homes have seen a hope become a reality. They’ve seen that dreams are possible.
Now Jamael and Marcos, the two oldest White Home boys, are both enrolled in university. Everyone went to the mall with them to pick out laptops they can use in their college courses. Seeing others’ dreams come true helps us believe our own can, too. Keith, age 15, said “[Marcos] and [Jamael] are lucky because they both have new laptops. I know that someday, when I become a college student, I can have my own laptop too.”
5. RECEIVE ENCOURAGEMENT AND SUPPORT FROM OTHERS.
Dreaming is communal. Ryan knows that wherever we’re going in life, we need each other to get there. He has experienced this firsthand. “I used to dream of going to school, but my parents couldn’t afford to send me. I was sad whenever I saw children in their school uniforms. But when I was brought to the White Home, my dream to study came true.” The kids in the safe homes learn they have people in their lives to love them and support them. “I am not afraid, because I know that I am not alone,” said Jinny.
In fact, love itself can turn our dreams into reality. It did for Remy. “Since childhood, I longed for the affection of a mother and a father. Here at Love146, I’ve found the things I didn’t have before, like the love of a family.”
It’s a beautiful thing when kids see how many people believe in them. “Thank you to the people who believe in my capacity and who continuously support me,” said David. Ryan, too, knows that he is a part of a network of people cheering for him. “There are people who value our worth and who support us so we can live lives with direction and purpose.”