Monday, May 31, 2010


I have moments here where I wonder what I'm doing, whether I'm needed, and if I'm contributing enough. This weekend reminded me of how I do contribute and what the children need from me.

I am the oldest volunteer here by nearly 10 years. This, I think is a good thing. I believe I have a perspective on life and children (having nannied, etc.) that the other volunteers are still developing. The bit of training I have in abuse counseling and domestic abuse prevention definitely help as well. There are moments that I have with the children that are so sincere and vulnerable that I play the parenting role more than the playmate role. For example, I saw one of the 10 year old boys hit the little six year old boy, Octavio the other day when they were playing soccer. Octavio gets beat on a lot by the older ones, as he's the youngest, but he also gives it back. Having some idea of the abusive backgrounds that a lot of these kids come from, I know that frequently when one of these little guys hits another one out of anger or frustration, there is a lot more going on under the surface than is seen. When I saw the other boy, (lets call him Carlos), hit Octavio, I pulled them both aside and got down on my knees and talked to them.

"Carlos why did you hit Octavio?"
"Because I wanted to."
"It's not okay to hit him when you feel angry."
"I don't care."
"It hurts Octavio. When other kids hit you, it hurts you too doesn't it?"
"I don't care."
"Why did you hit Octavio?"
"He was bothering me."
"When someone is bothering you it's not okay to hit them. Use words. Tell him to stop bothering you."
"I liked hitting him."
"I want you to apologize."
"You can't play anymore football for now. I want you to come and sit with me for a while."
To Octavio, "I'm sorry he hit you, that's not ok. We're going to talk for a while now and you can go back and keep playing."
Sitting on the bench,
"Carlos, why do you feel so angry?"
"It's not ok to hit when you feel angry. "Some day when you have a wife and a family you don't want to hit them when you get angry do you?"
Very quietly, "No."
"Has an adult ever hit you?"
"I'm so sorry. That was wrong and was not your fault. It's never ok for an adult to hit a child. "
For the rest of the conversation, Carlos is quiet, occasionally sniffling.
"Carlos, the reason I'm telling you this is because I love you. I'm sure these feelings are very confusing to you. I hope you know that you can trust me and if you ever want to talk I would really like that. "
We sat together for about 15 minutes. Him watching the game, me with my arm around him. After a while, I thanked him for listening and told him he could go back and play, but he chose to sit on the bench with me for a while longer. His face was turned away from me and I wasn't sure how upset he was with me. I knew he was doing a lot of thinking and that he was really sad. After a while he joined the others. I was unsure if he would want me as far away as possible after that or if we had bonded. The next day he came and sat with me and we watched cartoons on my laptop.

This event and others similar even more personal, have been the true reason I want to keep coming back to Hogar. When the boys are disciplined they're told not to hit, but I'm not sure, at least in Carlos's case that they really understand why. I think it would be very confusing to see the adults around you (parents, caretakers) being abusive when angry, and perhaps being the victim of that abuse and then being told to respond differently when you get angry. I don't think Carlos had made the connection before with the abuse in his past and the way he was treating the boys around him. Also, I think it was important for me to let him know that I didn't just think he was bad and that I understood how confusing all these feelings must be for him. Many of these kids, if not all, could use counseling. I know that the kids having the most outward problems get counseling. If they are functioning decently then they don't. All the kids here have crazy stories. And the adults here do what they can with the few resources available to them.

When I'm here I do my best to love these kids, listen to them, play with them, teach them and at times to comfort them. As I've mentioned before, the kids here are amazingly resilient and wonderful. Hogar is a safe place for these kids, and I'm glad that this is a place where I can take them aside, sit on the bench with them and talk.


the father's heart said...

Good job pursuing this little guy's heart and helping him think about a very big issue. You are doing this so well! It is clear that you are having impact.

Love, Dad

Lauren said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your dad Marci. Awesome interaction with the little ones. You should come and help me with my boys! I finally donated to the boys dorm remodel! Sorry about the delay!


Patty Ayers said...

I love this blog, Marci! And I love what you're doing at Hogar. Sending prayers and good energy! xo