Angels and demons…
By Helen Barnard
Working with children is like working with angels. Children watch adults keenly, and copy our behaviour. That is why it is so very important to care for those who work with these little souls. It is important that they are very present and aware of the messages they give to children about their worth, by the way they treat them, listen to them, respond to the verbal and non-verbal responses in the child that is sitting in their group meetings every week, for ten weeks. It is an opportunity to completely change the way the child sees their worth, and is able to screen out the negative messages the world give them. It is an opportunity to give the child tools that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
So this is what I discovered in this mentoring intervention:
- A multi-disciplinary team that raves about the amazing tool – The Khu Kit- we have given them to serve the children in their program. “Helen this manual is so awesome! It has got everything we need to run a successful grief program”. To complement this, they designed pre and post evaluation forms for the kids, to give feedback of their experiences in the support group. They have gift bags with the children’s names on, and over ten weeks, fills it up with different goodies, for each week that they attend. This is given to them at the end of ten weeks. But most of all, they are really interested in the best interest of the child. They support their facilitators in the best possible way, to be able to always give their best when they present a program to the kids.
- A team of extra-ordinary people who is absolutely committed to serve the children in a violent and impoverished community. They found clothes for a child who missed out on school and the group sessions, because his caregivers are alcoholic and neglectful. They also invite him to bring his school clothes at the end of the school week, so they can help him to clean it for the next week. This made him attend the support group meetings like clockwork. On one of the religious celebrations, he arrived at the group wearing a new jeans, proudly showing the price-tag still sitting there. When the facilitator told him (to save him embarrassment) that it’s okay to remove the label, he said “oh, I did not know I can take it off”. Testament that it’s the first time that he can remember, of ever getting a brand new article of clothing.
- Another child was laughed at because he could not read or write adequately. The facilitators helped him (putting a finger in-between words) to copy over and over three sentences reading “ek is mooi; ek is lief vir myself; hulle is lief vir my”, until he could do it well, and understood what he wrote.
Another team of facilitators run their support groups on a Saturday, because children come back from school too late to give them enough time to do justice to the program. They pick up the members of the group at different pick-up points and take them home afterwards. The manager attesting, “Helen, now that I’ve been to the 4-day training, I understand the importance of doing this work”.
- Another team is absolutely committed to deliver quality in the way that they prepare, deliver and administer their work with children. Their children refuses to leave after the group meetings, having a ‘tea-party’ and leaving the office when they lock up for the day. They tell a beautiful story of a boy who was an absolute nightmare when he started attending their groups. He was doing badly at school; his mother cold not manage him; he was aggressive, and ended up doing drugs. This year he is in matric and is starting university next year. They are speaking about him affectionately and with absolute pride.
- Then there are those facilitators who are disillusioned and neglected by their organisations and feeling like they have no voice. These people are the ones who have to muster up strength and motivation to keep shinning the light for the little angels they work with. And they do. These are the people that needs reminding of their purpose, so they won’t grow tired. These are the ones that need to know that their work with these angels are no less important than the professionals who sit with an overload of case work files…