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Reisverslag The girls home
7 december 2015
The girls home
I spend my days in Sri Lanka working in the girls home.
This ' transit house' is a place where they place girls from eleven to eightteen years. At eightteen years they are just kicked onto the streets, from what I've heard...Some girls go back to family at some point in their stay, but that are just a few 'lucky ones'.
The girls home is located on a secret location, and can't be seen from the road. I'm not allowed to share the exact location or the name of the girls home. Taking pictures of the girls or the building is also not allowed.
Girls in the house have been put in out of home care for diverse reasons. Some have been sexually abused or mistreaten, others are orphans, some have parents that are in jail, or work abroad. There are also girls that have been put in the girls house because of small offences. Some of the girls still have some family that can visit them every now and then. Other girls are here on a 'secret stay', it is for those girls and their safety that we are not allowed to for example share the location. If a girl has been abused by her father, and he finds out where she is now... You can fill in the rest.
I don't know which girl is here for what reason. Some girls do tell something, but I heard from my coordinator that they are not allowed to tell their life story. Some of the girls want to share things, which is okay, but it's better that the staff won't find out. Heartbreaking, because it must be hard to keep in all the things that play around in the girls heads. The girls are offered no psychological help whatsoever.
Giving the girls some personal attention also doesn't really seem to be high on the agenda of the staff. The girls are not allowed to hang around in their sleeping area at day time.That's why most of them hang around in the class room (which is quite big) where we also teach them. Sometimes, when there are very few staff members, the girls (and we as well) are locked up in that room.
There is also an agriculture teacher in this room, most of the days. She teaches about twelve girls. Some other girls have science, English, Sinhala or tailoring classes in the room upstairs. A few girls also go to schools outside of the fence, for one or two days a week. Our coordinator also offers a ' Bakery program for about ten girls. These girls are almost eightteen, and by teaching them baking and waiting skills, these girls can hopefully find jobs after their time in the girls home.
Other girls seem to have no classes at all. They spend their time hanging around in the class room. There are always girls sleeping (resting their head on a table, or laying on the concrete floor) or checking each other for lice. Both are big problems. There are about 35 beds upstairs and almost 80 girls. So this means that girls are sharing beds or sleep on the floor. The lice are also horrible for the girls. Some spend their day itching. Last week, we saw two girls cut off their hair (using normal scissors, cutting till there was nothing left to cut).
The cultural difference and the language barrier make it hard to understand all the things going on. Sometimes it feels like the staff doesn't want us to know everything, and you can sense some mysteriousness. Also, except the agriculture teacher (which is a sweetheart, and the only person I see smiling at the girls), nobody seems to speak English. Most of the information we have is from previous volunteers or our coordinator.
It's a little two-sided that we don't get to know everything that's going on at the girls house. At one hand, I would like to know what's going on, whether all the intentions of the staff are good or geniune and where we can help. I can understand they wouldn't be happy to show us the sleeping area if it's isn't looking good, but if we can help them to improve it and thereby help the girls, why not? I understand cultural difference plays a huge role in this. We are also only there for three months, and for the staff we will probably be one of the many they have already seen coming by.
I also feel like I shouldn't let my curiosity play a big role. It's normal, but I'm here to help the girls, in any way possible, and not to figure out what happened to what girl. If the girls feel like sharing something, I'm there for them, but unfortunately I can't offer them the psychological help they deserve, not in 11 weeks and in a different language. I'm hoping that someday, they will get a (n art) therapist that can help them, with yearlong therapy for their traumas, in Sinhala.
For now, me and my lovely fellow volunteer Lotte (a.k.a. Roti, because her name is too hard) try to do everything we can. We give English lessons in the mornings to all the girls that don't have classes. We keep our lessons open, so that every girl can participate, but some of the 'leftovers' feel more like sleeping or reading newspapers.
We extended the day program for the girls by offering them arts or sports in the afternoon. It's good to see them relaxing while drawing or smiling while dancing. Time to forget all their sorrows and just play like they should.
We are still making new plans. We would love to organize something for them with Christmas. I didn't expect them to celebrate this, but lot's of them are already excited. We don't know if it's possible (yet), but maybe we can organize something like a Christmas lunch/movie/dance party for them. We will keep you updated about this!