The past few months have been a roller-coaster of emotions – to say the least. The spiritual and mental battles we have faced over these past few months only seem to be intensifying. We KNOW the reasons why, but it doesn’t make it any easier.
Since February 5th, I’ve been hosting a 3-hour “therapy” session with 180-250 children from the community. At first, we all met together as one big group. I honestly wasn’t sure how “well received” these meetings would be. After all, there is ONLY ONE focus for these gatherings…. to discuss physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
However, after our first 3 sessions together – we were maxed out on space. The children were consistently returning and inviting their friends and extended family members to join. So after much prayer, we decided to add another 3-hour session and divide the children in half.
I have hired 14 leaders to help me each week – all teenagers. I also “hired” my own kids to be apart of this program as well. We continue to work with our stateside trauma therapists – updating them weekly with our findings and seeking advice as we move forward. They have offered to FaceTime with all of our leaders on a weekly basis as needed.
This family ministry has fully engaged my children in a way I never thought possible. If you could watch Gabe sit down with little kids, asking them to put bandages over the areas of their “doll” that had been touched….or see Mikela fill out worksheets with tears rolling down her cheeks as the children answer questions…. you’d be overcome with emotions much like Jose & I. This program has opened up a lot of very difficult family discussions as they try to process all the information that takes place each week.
I spend 2-4 hours with the group of leaders every Saturday so we can prepare for the following week. The teens can read and write very well. They understand how to communicate serious subjects with children. They also know that EVERYTHING discussed must be kept confidential in order to protect the children who attend.
We ultimately divided all the children into 7 teams/families. Three of those teams meet together each week for session 1 – and the other 4 teams meet together for session 2. Each of the teams have 2 leaders assigned to them. The idea is that each team becomes a small family, learning to trust and share their stories freely with the leaders.
I have created my own curriculum. I have powerpoint slides, lessons, children’s books, activities, worksheets, self-defense classes, coloring, etc.. – ALL translated into Creole!
At the end of every session, we spend 30 minutes completing worksheets with all of the kids. We play a video and pass out coloring sheets, so there is something for everyone to do – – WHILE the team leaders call each child individually for a private conversation. It is through these private conversations that we ask very specific questions about any abuse they have endured or secrets they would like to reveal.
I truly believed that these private conversations would be short and the worksheets would be mostly blank. I know it takes awhile for kids to open up AND this program is just something I made-up on my own. I seriously have no idea what I’m teaching from week to week. I just make it up as we go.
Last week while I was talking, I totally got off track and randomly pretended that I was an abuser and Pierre was just a little boy. My plan was to drag him to my home…as part of an object lesson that I was making up on the spot! LOL! After we finished the lesson – I decided I’m gonna teach self-defense techniques the following week. So I spent this week watching HOURS of self-defense videos on youtube.
I taught the leaders 4 different techniques to break free from attackers- and they then taught their teams! The kids LOVED it so much – I told them we would try to learn 2 more moves each week for the next month! I have NO IDEA what those moves will be – but I watched enough hours of them on youtube I’m sure I won’t have any trouble!
Anyways, as we started meeting with the leaders to discuss what they learned during their private conversations – we were BLOWN away. Not only are they sharing about their tragic experiences IN GREAT DETAIL, but they are also naming the abusers who are doing it to them.
Sadly, we’ve identified in very specific and graphic detail – 132 children who have experienced sexual abuse from family members, neighbors, teachers, friends, and strangers.
As we process this information and look for ways to intervene – I have encouraged the children to share with someone else that they trust who is in their immediate circle. I also offered to go with them if they wanted me to. I explained that they can also come to me anytime – day or night – if they are in trouble.
The last few weeks we’ve had a dozen moms show up at our sessions. . At first I was nervous because these are serious subjects and if the adults in town knew what we were discussing – those children wouldn’t be allowed to attend. I didn’t want to do the lessons in front of them, so Pierre and I met with them first outside of the cafeteria.
I was moved to tears as they revealed their reasons for visiting. Their children went home and told them about what happened to them. The moms believed them but they didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know how to handle the situation with the (neighbor/uncle/abuser). The children told them that Mme Castillo said that anyone can see her if they are in trouble. So the moms were there asking for my advice about what to do!
I just can’t….. I mean the kids are HEARING and ACTING and MANY moms are seeking help!
I can’t even wrap my head around that.
There’s fruit…. there’s already fruit from this program.
With this fruit there are MANY thorns and weeds. There’s voodoo curses and threats constantly against our family. I don’t want to go into detail about that right now….but we just ask for you to lift up this program, our leaders, the children, and this community as we continue to peel back each layer of darkness!
I’m not comfortable yet sharing a lot of photos from these meetings, as I want to be careful & protective of those who come. BUT – below I’ve included a few snapshots with some captions to give you an idea about how we host these sessions.
This upcoming week we will begin bringing children into my play therapy room where we can begin to start the process of healing. (This link will take you to a previous blog about the playroom.)