Thursday, June 4, 2009

STUDENT REFLECTIONS - Place of Hope - Krista Goodman

As I reached for the handle to the door of the daycare of Place of Hope (a shelter for battered women and children), I heard screams, shouts, and laughter of children coming from the other side. My first glimpse into the room showed a mess of kids scattered about. Some were throwing foam pads at one another, others were banging toy trucks on the ground while others were chasing each other with chairs in their hands. One child was bawling as he ran to across the room to gain attention from the teacher busy preparing their lunch of scrambled eggs and instant mashed potatoes.
What did I get myself into?
I am not very good with little children and I was not looking forward to changing dirty diapers and wiping snotty noses. For the first day I thought I would just observe the teachers and kids, but I was quickly thrown into the role of teacher when both the women working there left to go run errands in the building. I was mortified. The children were running rampant throughout the room, hitting and fighting each other, putting dangerous objects in their mouths, stealing toys from each other and then flipping off others as well as me. I knew these children were victims of abuse and I refused to be forceful with the children, but my soft, quiet ways in dealing with them were not effective. I was so relieved when the teachers came back into the room and regained control.
For several days in the daycare that was all I could see: a bunch of defiant little kids that had no respect for authorities. It wasn't until Steve and Elaine came in to observe and commented about how much the teacher loved the kids that I saw it for myself. I was very critical about how harsh the teachers were on the children. In the U.S., spanking an abused child is taboo, but in South Africa, that is not as frowned upon, but nevertheless, I judged them on that.
Finally I saw the love in it all. The teachers saw behind the mess of fighting, smelly, slobbery kids and saw a child who was deserving of their love. After three weeks of working in the daycare, I am worn out, but my exhaustion is only temporary. Those teachers will continue coming to work every day, putting up with the children's problems, teaching them important life lessons, but most importantly, loving them.
One thing I have learned is that you cannot completely change a person with a one time donation. Change is brought about when you invest in people's lives and show them their worth. This is what the teachers and employees of Place of Hope are doing every single day. With organizations like Place of Hope, South Africa can be transformed into a country that values every human life.

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