Meet Hope (not her real name). She’s 14, a little shy, speaks in an extremely low voice, no eye contact and keeps to her corner. I only get to learn her full name from the caretaker, since I can barely hear what she says.
Sigh… my heart races for a moment. Anxiety kicks in. How I’m going to interact with this girl? Nothing had prepared me for this experience. How do i break this barrier and get through to her? I’m getting cold feet. She’ll warm up eventually…Deep breathe Nkatha…
Hope is one of the teenage girls aged between 7-18 seated in this room. I’m feeling overwhelmed as I look through the rest of this group. Dear God, what did I get myself into?!!! I’m starting to feel uneasy. The stares…the awkward silence… C’mon guys…not even one welcoming smile for the ‘visitor’? No? Ok.
But then again, why I’m I not the one initiating this ‘Smile thing’? (Thank you Rascal Flats for the smile song stuck in my head right now,reminding me to show the World the Warmth of my Smile!) Sure works like magic! Now we are getting somewhere… I’m learning their names and ages. (Happy dance to self, Yes!!! )
One Lamb Kenya is an Organization that exists to share the good news of God’s rescue plan by working to rescue children from commercial sexual exploitation. Due to extreme poverty especially in the slums, young girls engage in sex to afford basic necessities such as food and sanitary wear. Among these girls however, are also a few victims of rape either by people unknown to them or unfortunately by their relatives.
Ending exploitation of children however requires many hands in terms of donations, fundraising, counseling and therapy sessions for the Children.
So when I got an invite from my friend Marcy to engage the girls in art sessions, I gladly accepted the invite and was excited to be part of this amazing cause, more especially having being involved and having a passion to mentor younger girls than I. To my surprise, the invite came in at a time when I intended to research on ‘Art for Healing’, using creative therapies, symbolic play and storytelling. This was definitely a good opportunity to work through that and at the same time help transform a girl’s life.
My time at One Lamb confirmed the research I’d already delved in. Trauma, in this case sexual trauma, affects a whole self; Identity, confidence, Faith, emotions, trust, relationships with others, strong thoughts, deep inward reflections, unexplained anger & aggressiveness in some cases, anxiety, intense fear, paranoia, recollections / dreams of an event, lack of responsiveness, mental health problems, negative feelings, internal conflict, impulsive behavior, inadequacy and low self-esteem.
Hope could not fathom the thought of looking at herself in the mirror. She somehow was convinced that there would be nothing absolutely good to look at. Embarrassed by her past,she could not name anything positive about herself, better yet recollect anything ‘good’ that ever happened in her 14 years of existence in a symbolic play exercise. But she had quite a list of everything negative that ever have happened to her. She prefers keeping indoors for the fear of a stranger out there raping her. She couldn’t remember the last time there was peace back home where she lives with her aunt. She has to work too hard, sometimes miss school and once in a while give a sexual favour in exchange for a few coins to buy herself food. There are days she longs to be reunited with her mother, but doesn’t quite remember what she looked like or what their relationship was like. Once in a while, she’d get into a fight with the other girls, then withdraw into her corner. Worst of all, she had this notion that nothing good could ever come out of her. This in my imagination is just too much for one person, more especially a teenager.
What these girls did not know, is that they are pretty awesome actually 🙂 And when telling them that sometimes doesn’t sink in or doesn’t convince them, one of the ways to let them see that, was letting them see it through the works of their hands. Sometimes working on a few art projects either individually or in groups. It was amazing to watch and see them open up to learning new things, eager to learn new things, different techniques of recycling old materials and transforming them into beautiful things and getting creative on their own. It was a safe place to express themselves through art. I saw their beautiful faces light up, much different from the first day I met them. While engaged they unconsciously opened up much easily than before from the funny stories they told of their backgrounds, schools they attended, and right there were the moments to point out the beautiful moments in their life they overlooked having being shadowed by the few not so good experiences. More importantly, they learnt how to work in teams, appreciate their partners’ strengths and weaknesses and strengthened their friendships amongst themselves.
Part of the art exercises also helped monitor basic motor skills and determine any kind of special education that some may require in terms of school.
(The difference in thought process in the above two sets is apparent)
It’s amazing to see girls work safely through their past experiences, understand and move on from their past. It boosts their moods, confidence, mental health, lessens their anxiety, are relaxed, calmer, find life more meaningful, are more self aware, shift focus from past pain and hurt to activities that are fun, soothing and enjoyable.
(The girls wanted to thank their sponsors by way of handmade cards)
Art Therapy is just one of the ways and part of the process to reach out to and transform the lives of these amazing young girls. One Lamb Kenya and other organizations such as these need your help in terms of ideas, your time and donations to facilitate this.
To reach out and participate in this noble cause, visit www.onelamb.org, or write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Help transform a girl’s life today!