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Archive for October, 2010

I apologize to my family if this brings up sore feelings of the past. I love you.

em·pa·thy: [em-puh-thee] the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Today was a sad day for me. First thing this morning, one of the kids who I have gotten to know this year showed up to the school crying and holding her head. When we removed her hand, we saw that she had been covering a gash in her forehead and a good-sized lump. This amazing girl had been abused by her older brother, who she defines as crazy. I have only seen the brother one time earlier in the year. As he was yelling things at her that I didn’t understand, she took me by the hand and lead me away from her home while she looked at me with sad eyes and said said, “perdon, Kerry” (forgive me Kerry). This is the extent of the interaction that I have had with this boy of about fourteen years old.

This morning I heard that once again this girl’s brother punched her in her head with his fist while wearing rings. This conversation between her and I happened just a half hour after we past her house while her grandmother was sitting outside the house yelling at everyone inside. This is real/normal life for this amazing 10-year-old girl. While we talked today, she told me of other times where her older brother has physically abused her. This opened a whole can of worms in my heart.

How do you tell a child that this is not normal? How do you tell a kid who has never known any better that, no… it’s not normal for your family to violate your body, heart, spirit, and mind?. It’s not normal for the people that you are supposed to trust the most to make you feel like the most terrible person alive. How do you tell a child that it doesn’t have to be that way? That it won’t always be that way? I wanted her to understand that just because members of her family act this way, it’s not a reflection on her in any way. She is not less than amazing because of her circumstance.

I struggled… was it my place to tell this girl these things? I didn’t know what else to do…

So this morning I sat with this intelligent, beautiful, and clever ten-year-old girl and told her the story of my childhood. I explained to her with the help of our school psychologist (and my very good friend) Sofi, that I also grew up in a home full of abuse. I told her that when I was her age I was afraid everyday. Afraid to get out of bed, to talk, to argue with my siblings, to do poorly in school. My step-father (my mother’s second husband) was very abusive toward my brother and I. With this history of my life, my sweet student looked at me and I told her that it will get better someday. Someday she will be old enough and strong enough to leave that place and can decide how to approach her abusive family. Someday she will realize how amazing and intelligent she is and will have the opportunity to further her education to become the person she wants to be, and not be stuck in the place that holds her captive now. I told her that if she ever wants to talk about what’s happening in her home that she could come to Sofi and I, and we would listen to all that she had to say.

With these words, she smiled at me and wrapped her arms around my neck. In English, I told her that I loved her… which she repeated back to me. I needed her to know that things can get better. She left my company in better spirits and smiling. She knows that the teachers at the escuelita love her.

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~ I went on two home visits for two of my favorite kids and learned that they are getting into trouble together. I also found that their homes are very beautiful despite being in the ghetto.

~ I watched two grown men fight over a glue bottle… while each of them had glue bottles in their mouths.

~ My english classes went very well. My students are definitely learning something, and that makes me feel amazing.

~ I got sucked into playing basketball. One of my students kept calling himself Michael Jordan, which was just hilarious. The baskets were partially filled paint buckets, with sand.

~ I watched one of my former students walk past me with a glue pack in his pocket. He was trying to hide it from us.

~ I learned a bunch of new words in Spanish, all from some songs that were playing in one of the classrooms.

~ I was nearly decapitated in a game of dodgeball.

It was a very good day.

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