Stories Need To Be Told...
...lest they dissolve into oblivion.
There are moments that need to be captured and made eternal simply because there is a wealth of emotions and spirituality in them. Painting a picture with words is one of the ways to immortalize these for people who were not there and for the future generation.
This is my contribution....
Saturday, September 3, 2011
MAKING IT RIGHT
Walking into the room, it seemed to brighten up as several beautiful, angelic faces light up. You can almost feel their excitement, coupled with anticipation and curiosity.
Jeffrey, two years old and small for his age, surveys me then quickly limbers towards me with arms extended upwards – asking to be picked up. My heart is suddenly a puddle. I pick him up, hug him with all the love I hoped he can feel from me. He hugs me briefly and pulls away, not to far though, but just enough to survey my face. He looks deep into my eyes. I almost cry.
Was he trying to find his mother in me? Was he secretly hoping it WAS me? Was he hoping that I wouldn’t leave after a few hours of playing with him? Was he praying he would sleep in my arms and wake up still in my arms, for days and days to come?
Still in my arms, he continued to study me, taking in the small details. He grabs a tuft of my hair, then he finds my earring, then my necklace. His gaze comes back to my face and he traces my mouth.
Was he trying to commit my face to memory? Or was he trying to remember if I had come before, held him before?
My heart broke.
Another toddler, a girl, Nica was tugging at my blouse. The pretty scarf tied on my bag caught her attention. She is a girl’s girl, that’s for sure. I bent down, and tried to set Jeffrey on the floor. He lifted his legs, not wanting to touch the floor. He didn’t want to be put down. His gaze searched for my face and the expression on his face was clear. It was a plea, for me not to let go. Ruth our guide, herself carrying another child smiled at me wryly. In an almost whisper, she said most of the kids are like that. Once picked up, they milk the time for all it’s worth. They won’t let go. Not easily anyway.
I set my bag down on the floor, and immediately Nica’s tiny hands were on it, curious as a cat...or kitten, in this case: a tiny, beautiful, innocent kitten. My filofax seemed to hold a special attention for her and her eyes were silently asking for permission, as her hands reached for it. When I didn’t protest, she smiled that wide smile. I would have gladly given her anything if I could have that smile again, bottle it and take it home with me. It was so sweet...
Across the room, Joshua had found Noel and had taken him hostage: a willing one. Joshua, at four years old is smaller than my son, Zuri, who just turned three. He was not supposed to be at the center anymore since they are for kids 3 years old below. But he hasn’t been adopted. The center has relaxed the rules a bit for him. He was just happy that Noel was carrying him. Ruth said, the kids are particularly craving for ‘male presence’ since majority of the staff and volunteers are female. Noel was a rare commodity.
If Jeffrey was a clinger, Joshua is a master clinger. Being older, he knew better than to let go, even if it was in exchange of a nice toy. He clung to Noel, like Noel was the last plane out of Saigon.
So we stayed a little longer. I played with Nica a little bit, while Jeffrey was magnanimously content just being in my arms.
But then, we were sent there for a mission, and we had to deliver.
We went back to the adjoining room where the Crawlers were. Crawlers’ meaning what it says, little kids who are crawling and learning how to walk steady on their feet. There were ten of them. Four girls and six boys.
The little critters are the cutest: each one, in the enchanting process of developing their unique personalities. There was Paul who was playing with a ball. I smiled at the rhyme; Paul with the Ball. The ball bounced towards me, I caught it and I extended it towards him. He totters tentatively towards me, grabs the ball and runs back to the other volunteer he was originally playing with. He hides behind him and takes furtive little peeks at me. I smile at him and he hides his face again, but I could see he was smiling. ADORABLE!
Then there is Tina. Oh she is no push over. As I sat on the floor, she walked towards me and my filofax and promptly thumped it with her teeny fingers. She looked at me and smiled widely, with all of her four teeth showing, so delighted at the deed. She completely grabs my filofax and hugs it close to her chest as if it was her favourite toy. Along comes Sephora, beautiful name, isn’t it? The origin? She was born on September the fourth. She was momentarily given up by her mom when she was a month old. Now, one year old, she is in the process of being re-integrated back with her birth mother. Yes, the mother changed her mind and wants her child back. I was silently hoping that it turns out good for this little angel.
Sephora is a fair child, mestiza with soulful eyes. She had seen my filofax and she wanted it for herself. Before I knew it, she and Tina are in a tug of war. Tina was already whimpering and whining, while Sephora was single-minded in her goal. She emitted no sound. In her eyes: determination. I couldn’t help thinking, hey I am getting a glimpse of these two as grown ups! A clue, at the least!
Tina was not going to let go. Neither was Sephora. Noel thankfully came to the rescue and picked up Sephora. They remained together for a while. Sephora safely cradled tenderly in Noel’s expert arms, while he was softly talking to her.
Another girl, Angelica wakes up from her nap and asks to be taken out of her crib. Once on the floor, she picked up a rattle and ran around the room, banging it on her head playfully. Good thing it was a rubber rattle. Paul, the elusive one suddenly sat on my other lap as if it were a bench. His back was to me as if he was refusing to acknowledge he has finally decided to come to me. He continued to play with his ball. Tina decides she wanted to stash my filofax in her crib, so she got up from my other lap, limbered over to the crib and tried to throw my filofax over to the mattress. Paul takes this opportunity to nestle himself securely on my lap, claiming it as his territory now. Then, he turns his head and smiles at me. He had only one tooth!!
Of course I couldn’t resist. Nobody with a beating heart could! I picked him up and immedaitely realized he is a pointer. He was pointing to all directions, asking to be taken here and there and back here again. He accompanied each instruction with an impatient grunt, and a nudge, followed by his single toothed smile.
I look over to where Noel was, and imagine my surprise when I find two little ones, on each his arms. He was eating it up! He was busier than I was! It made me feel good to know I was not the only sucker for these little critters. Haha
In the next room with a glass panel were three infants. The youngest was 1 month old. Visitors are not encouraged due to their delicate condition. I just secretly blew a kiss in the direction of the glass window, for the sleeping little angels. I would have stayed there all day if I could.
But, again, we were on a mission.
So we bid goodbye as we were guided to the other building. The New Beginnings building is where sexually abused children, aged 7-17 are sheltered, for a maximum of two years. Here they receive counselling and therapy. Here they are protected. Here, they are given the chance and the tools to heal. Here they are allowed to reclaim their childhood.
Several girls in matching green school uniforms cheerfully greeted us with a “Good Afternoon po!”
Looking at them, one would never have guessed the horrors they had been through. They were acting like sisters. Hugging each other and horsing around. Some of them were engaged in menial chores like cleaning fish intended for their evening meal. Each girl was genuinely solicitous, albeit in varying levels and styles.
Each of them has a story. Given the chance, I would want to write about it, being discreet about their real identity, but documenting their experience for lessons that may be garnered from it. Something good has to come out of those nightmares. This is the way the universe is designed.
One particular nightmare was a girl, ten years old. Let’s call her Anne. She was found on a riverbank, covered up by leaves and left for dead. She was raped by five gang members when they intercepted her on her way home from school. She is pretty, dark skinned, with a shy smile. For the life of me, I could not imagine the horrific experience. I wanted to hug her because I could see my daughter in her. But I had to hold myself back.
Another one was raped by an uncle, another, by a neighbour, two others, by their stepfathers. The youngest ward they had is seven years old. Seven. SEVEN!
My heart broke all over again.
Ruth took us around the dormitory-style shelter. Everything was simple. Everything was in order. Everything was comforting. It felt safe. For these girls, that was the most important thing.
Noel noticed the artworks on the wall and started to take pictures. It was by the girls from before who have stayed, healed and moved on in their lives. The house mother whom the girls called “nanay ko” was busy but was very gracious. She was trying to organize a little meeting downstairs at the dining area.
When we came down, most of the 27 girls were already seated and were quite curious who we were. When Ruth made informal introductions, one of the more gregarious girls commented that she thought Noel was an actor. No less than Mr. Jackie Chan himself.
Oh I didn’t escape unscathed. Another girl, a shier one, asked if I knew who Vina Morales was. I said yes I did, and she said I looked like her. Oh boy.
On the ride back to where we would finally meet up with Trixie (she was supposed to be with us at the orphanage, but the life-and-death situation of needing to shop for shoes interfered), Noel and I were silent. I guess we were both still processing the gamut of emotions we felt, after being immersed in the shelter’s environment.
Eventually I spoke up. I said, “I believe it is a good day.”
With eyes firmly on the road, his hands steady on the wheel, he answered “Yes, I believe it is.”
On the dashboard, was the shelter’s newsletter. I could read part of the cover:
“When things go wrong, God finds a way of making them right.”
I felt even better, knowing, we may be part of God’s way of ‘making them right.’
(The photo accompanying this article is not that of the kids at CRIBS, to protect their privacy. It is just to add a visual to the innocence that the writer was trying to paint of the children.)
at 12:59 PM