I believe that education should be based on the development of curious human beings who can express themselves freely and confidently, who respect themselves and others and can create healthy connections and interactions within the environment with which they live.
There is a girl who started in our project with her older brother and her little sister about four years ago. I remember some of the arguments that she would get into with the other girls. She was very sharp and could cut anybody down to size with a few cold and direct words. Some of those arguments would lead to physical fights. One such fight ended up within tangle of hair and fists. They were living with their mother at the time who was not long out of jail. Their father, sill on the inside.
Carla our child psychologist has always had a strong connection with this family. She has been working with them for the last 7 years. The best thing that could have ever happened to Food for Thought was when we moved into this new space almost 4 years ago and started collaborating with Foundation Arché. Carla and her team of psychologists work closely with the children and their mothers. The mothers’ group is an excellent project in itself! Every week Carla would have meetings with the children. She is like an off-site mother to these kids and many others within the project. The most difficult aspect is knowing that these kids don’t have adequate role models in their lives outside of the project walls.
She didn’t stay in Food for Thought for long. Coming and going a lot, and eventually, she stopped showing up. As did her brother and her little sister. She would still return to have regular visits with Carla and every now and then her brother would show up too. We haven’t seen the little sister in a while. Her mother is back inside for attempted murder, so she now lives with her grandmother. She also now has a baby sibling who was born in jail.
Earlier this year she started coming to Food for Thought once a week to help out in the kitchen. As I mentioned in my day 7 blog, there are some children that wake up to the faults of their parents and fight to not become like them. This girl is one of them. Unfortunately, her older brother is not. The invisible force that is pushing so many young adolescents like him in the same direction is just too strong. I don’t blame him. All of the easy options, drugs, alcohol, and crime, are right in front of him. The hardest option of all, to move against the current, takes a huge amount of time, energy and strength. I hope that he too will come to his senses one day.
Yesterday she came to Food for Thought with a present for our chef Alejandra. It was a new apron. Now the two of them have matching aprons. She is only 13 years old, but I see her as such a wise person. She is calm, speaks openly and expresses herself freely. She always has a shy smile and loves working in the kitchen. She has seen and lived so much in her short life so far. She has had to battle face to face with so many daemons. I can only imagine what life would be like in her shoes.
I think that she has found her safe space in the kitchen. She feels respected as she is treated as an equal. Yesterday she made omelets for all of the children and the education team. It is a really strange feeling but whenever she is in the kitchen it feels like there is a mini-guru in our presence. The ones who often call ourselves the teachers are actually the students and the best teacher is the one that has it harder than any of us. Once again I can safely say that ‘we know nothing’, but we have our mini-guru in the kitchen pathing the way for us…