If you’re like most people who saw it, your breath was taken away by the powerful and moving acceptance speech given by Lupita Nyong’o, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of “Patsey” in the film “12 Years A Slave.” She ended her speech by saying:
“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
Her statement immediately reminded me of a therapy session that Dr. Gundelina Velazco, our Director of Asia Aftercare, held for the survivors of child trafficking and exploitation in our shelter in the Philippines. She asked each of the girls to walk down a pathway that winds its way through the safe home property, and to close their eyes and picture their future. She then asked, “What do you see?”
For these children, to even dream about a future again is a miracle. Most of them question whether they will survive today. There is no tomorrow. So to dream of a future again is one of the first signs of recovery beginning to take place.
One child said, “I picture myself on my 18th birthday and people celebrating the fact that I actually turned 18.
Another child said, “I picture myself walking down the aisle at my high school graduation.”
A third child stood on the pathway, closed her eyes, and pretended to hold a bouquet of flowers. She said, “I picture myself on my wedding day. Maybe one day someone will love me and value me the way I should be loved and valued.” She later expressed her doubts to our therapist asking, “Do you really think that anyone would ever want to love me or value me when they find out what has happened to me and what I’ve been through?”
These are the kinds of dreams the children we work with hope will one day become a reality. Dreams that most of us might think are small or take for granted. In fact, Dr. Velazco says, “What others take for granted we usually celebrate — an uneventful day, getting well from an illness, the grass turning green again, or even the rain.”
Just like those watching the Academy Awards this past Sunday celebrated a dream coming true for an amazing young actress, we, along with those who partner with us in our work, get to be a part of seeing the dreams of these children becoming a reality.
Within the last few years, we have seen a girl who once stood on a pathway dreaming for the moment she would turn 18… actually turn 18. And we celebrated that day.
We saw a girl who one day had a dream that she would graduate from high school… eventually graduate from high school and go on for training to receive an education where she is now a certified caregiver enabling her to work with other children who have experienced what she once did. And we celebrated that day.
And we saw a girl who one day walked down a pathway, closed her eyes and dreamed of a wedding day… eventually get married to someone who loves her and values her the way she should be loved and valued.
The children we have the privilege of partnering with remind us daily of the truth in what Lupita so eloquently said: “that every little child, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”