“We should treat ourselves as princes and princesses instead of slaves.” — Crystal
One thing violence can damage is a person’s sense of their own agency in the world, their own power to shape and change their lives and environment. Every child in our Survivor Care has had an experience where control they deserved was removed from their hands. A lot of kids in our care have had experiences that made them believe their lives would always be out of their control. They used their voices and bodies to fight against people who were hurting them, but they were not respected. Gradually, they may have come to think that they had very little say in what happened to them.
“I lost trust in my own capability.” — Michelle
We want them to learn that now they do have power over many elements of their own presents and futures. And we think a good place to start is with their bodies. Before, they didn’t have much control over keeping their bodies healthy and strong. Some of them didn’t have easy access to food or medical care. Some went through abuse that left them with injuries and infections that didn’t go away. Maybe they stopped believing things could be different.
“I was forced to enter a worthless job selling my body, and I stopped caring what happened to me.” — Judy
One of the first things we teach kids in our safe homes is that whatever they’ve been through, they now have the power to make decisions that will have a real impact on their bodies. They can tell the nurse when they don’t feel well and they will get the medical attention they need. They can also jog, bike, dance, or play to keep their muscles strong.
“We take vitamins so we can be smart.” — Peggy
It helps them remember that their bodies matter. “I’m grateful that they taught me proper hygiene here,” said one girl. Jasmine, age 10, who wants to be reminded to eat or take a bath. “When I was still on the street,” she explained, “no one bothered to tell me those things, so I was always dirty and hungry.” Through Survivor Care, children can find that learning to love their bodies helps them learn to love their hearts too. Self-care helps teach how strong and important they are.
“I want other children to take care of themselves so they can transcend their hardship. They’ll learn they don’t have to give up, just like I didn’t give up.” — Claudia
“Before, other people controlled my life. Now, I have control over myself.” — Cate
And let’s not forget: There’s a lot of joy in taking care of ourselves, too! Julieta said, “I learned here in the Round Home that playing makes our bodies stronger.” Playing also makes our hearts stronger. So does stopping during a morning jog to watch the sunrise. Or painting your nails with your friends. Biting into a delicious piece of fruit. Sleeping in. Lying in the grass and feeling the sun and breeze on your skin. Saying kind words to yourself.