Friday, July 26, 2013

Embassy and Shoes

Wednesday was a big day at Salvando Corazones. Along with normal running of the house we had two different groups of visitors. The first group that came was the US embassy. Three individuals for the embassy came to visit the safe house and discuss the possibility of a human trafficking conference that we wish to put on. It was a very positive meeting. The embassy was very excited about our ideas and expertise and they agreed to pay for the trainings and conference. Several other specialists from different NGOs in Costa Rica also came to join the meeting and it was fun seeing 20 some odd people around our kitchen table. We also received a visit from the Pani (Child Protective Services). They came to evaluate the house and interview the staff and the girls. They had several major changes including more defined roles for each individual, a more fixed schedule, as well as other recommendations for the house. I felt that it was a very positive experience even though we were written up for several small things around the house (one of which was there were a pair of boots by the backdoor, which for some reason all shoes must be out of sight. What?). It is exciting to be meeting with such important people and seeing everyone come together over the issues of human trafficking and caring for the girls.

The last week has also been stressful for several emotional reasons. Salvando Corazones is a very new organization, and it was opened over two years ahead of schedule. There is still so much to still do in order to create a smoothly functioning organization. Meeting after meeting talking about rules, roles, and concerns takes a lot out of you physically and mentally. It is important to continue to remind myself that we are doing this for the girls when you feel beat down trying to deal with structural and management issues all day. A cohesive and trusting group is necessary to successfully open up a group home.

I have learned a lot especially from the new girl that has arrived. I have never dealt with a child so young on such strong depression medication. The different psychological problems that she is dealing with are extremely concerning. The combination of psychological problems as well as general behavior problems keeps all of us on our toes and constantly changing things around the house.

The best story happened last night. Yesterday was a difficult day for two of the girls. They decided to go for a walk off property on their own twice as they did not want to comply with the schedules. We are fairly remote, but still there are concerns and rules about leaving the premises unattended. Last night we decided to steal all of their shoes as a punishment for their unaccompanied walks and to prevent their “escape” that they were planning for the morning. One of the other volunteers and I snuck into their rooms with a flashlight very Watergate-esk. All the shoes were hidden away and a super interesting morning was to follow. The reactions of the different girls varied. One found it funny, one found it fair, and one decided that the world was out to get her and she was not going to class. Working with these girls especially when it comes to behavior management has been fascinating and I would never have guessed that my job description would involve stealing girl’s shoes in the night (I was able to feel like Santa Claus, but more like the evil Santa’s that one might find in the mall). Sadly, not all behavior management is as fun as stealing shoes. Earlier in the day we had to take apart a girls room without her knowing in order to look for razor blades. I have never had to deal with cutting behavior before, but the psychological distress that some of these girls are experiencing always keeps me on alert and learning new things. How to deal with each girl individually is fascinating and I know that my experience here will help me deal with children in the future. Thanks to Jen, I had attended a talk on Dyscalculia and Dyslexia at Vanderbilt which unfortunately is yet another issue that arises with these girls. There is never a dull day and still so much to learn.  

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