On April 1st I boarded a plane for Indonesia to continue my internship with Compassion First at Sarah’s House. Nearly a month--plus the entire 24 hours of travel--was spent trying to prepare and anticipate what the shelter, staff, and girls would be like. Now, having experienced my first few weeks here, I can share that it is so much more than I ever expected.
I felt welcomed into Sarah’s House immediately; the girls even prepared a little cheer for my arrival. Every day the girls have planned activities and classes as part of their individual programs. I have been able to start teaching life skills and fitness, and the girls have been training me in guitar, the Indonesian language, and how to handle the spicy cuisine. We have set goals to improve morning workouts and to get my badminton skills up to par. I love that they are excited to share with me and am grateful to learn from each of them.
These girls are incredibly talented and smart, and have moved me daily with the happiness and hope they radiate. Each day is different, and no doubt hard times are felt here as well, but the sense of optimism never leaves. The ability for each one to wake up with a smile on her face and have ambitions for the day speaks volumes about the work of Compassion First and the environment at Sarah’ House.
The staff here truly gives all they have to support the girls through the program. Everyone works hard to ensure the success of each resident. Though the work is difficult at times, the same hopefulness felt throughout Sarah’s House exists in the staff office. Most days the hard work and focus is broken up by spontaneous lip-sync competitions and sharing some of the best snacks imaginable. Seeing the staff and girls approach each challenge with unfailing optimism and faith is what makes this such a special place.
Sarah’s House is constantly full of so much joy--music, laughter, and dancing are nearly constant. In my first weeks, I have realized the real magic is best seen through the small acts, done with great love. Moments like standing under a waterfall and having a girl lean in to express her happiness, or the whole group falling asleep in the van on the way home from a day full of swimming or simply eating fried bananas. Walking into the shelter each morning and sharing a joke or two with a few girls and house moms, and seeing two tables, full of smiles, on the patio at lunchtime are what turn the staff and girls at Sarah’s House into family.
Many early mornings as I arrive at our shelter and I head through our secure gated entrance, across the side yard towards the back of the property, I’ll spot one of our girls in the outdoor laundry area listening to some tunes while rinsing her clothes in the water coming from our newly dug well. I’ll head towards the house living quarters and, just as I’m entering, another girl will dart out of her room in a hurry, barefoot, all dressed, hair done and fresh makeup, searching for her shoes. She’s already a little late for her vocational training school, or perhaps a family visit. One house mom will be patiently helping her search. Across the room another girl sits on the couch playing the guitar and singing for her personal morning worship time. I’m almost always greeted by whomever is there. “Hey Ka Becks, good morning.” They like to use the English they’ve been learning and I’m usually just as eager to use my Bahasa, “Pagi, nona! Apa kabarmu?” We’ll chat a moment for fun about absolutely nothing or catch up on what’s been going on. Then I’ll head out the back of the living quarters.
Immediately I can hear chit-chat and giggles coming from a couple more girls hanging out with a house mom and a case coordinator at the breakfast table on the open-air patio next to the kitchen. One of the girls will still be in her morning tennis workout clothes, obviously needing a shower, while the other is still in her morning pj’s. Across from the patio one of our teachers will be in an empty classroom preparing for morning lessons which start in about an hour. If I don’t get sucked into the conversation at the breakfast table I’ll head into our office where I’ll usually find a couple other staff members preparing their morning agendas.
Believe it or not, at Sarah’s House most mornings are just like this but obviously not all. They are teenage girls after all working through the emotions of their teen years with the additional challenges that are still being resolved from their past trafficking situations. However, much of their progress and healing comes directly from our ability to provide for them the every day love and basic needs that every kid should have. A safe home with loving and caring people that come alongside them every day. A stable environment of healthy nurturing every day. An environment of learning and opportunity every day. Thank you so much for helping us provide some of the most important things these girls need — this home, this place of hope and healing.
Indonesia bid us farewell in her characteristic way. One week before our departure we had a 7.3 earthquake, tsunami watch and torrential rains! Last year, it was a record-breaking flood! We like to think she just doesn’t want us to leave.
November 19th we flew home from a 2 ½ month visit to Sarah’s House. We are Robin and John Vendelin, known collectively by our ministry, Binding-Up Broken Hearts. Robin is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Washington State, and John is a pastoral counselor. We are called by the Lord to provide therapy and counseling to children, youth and their caregivers in this troubled world who are suffering the debilitating symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and have no access to mental health resources (due either to lack of available services or financial resources). We use cutting-edge techniques that work to assist the brain’s natural way of processing events to then process trauma that has been stuck in the “inbox”. These newer ways of treating PTSD typically work significantly faster than traditional talk therapy. Even during a relatively short visit of just a few months, we are able to see good results from our work. Last year we were with Compassion First (CF) in Indonesia for 3 months.
While at Sarah’s House this visit, we had the indescribable joy of working with CF’s precious residents as well as staff who recognized need for resolution of trauma that are part of their own lives. Especially exciting, our friend and colleague Cathy Thorpe, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, came to provide training to CF staff that broadened their therapeutic skills. Twelve staff took training, and twenty-two received treatment for PTSD with good results we have come to expect.
The changes in those whom we worked with last year were clear to see; they seemed happier, more confident, and peaceful. To hear them report that they had been “good” after their treatment during our last visit was wonderful. It was especially encouraging to see that residents had experienced an enduring change. Since the girls’ brains have not only sustained significant injury due to traumatic experiences but are also still developing, providing therapy for them is more challenging and change harder to sustain.
The stories, both the girls’ and staffs’, are theirs to tell, not ours. The following, however, is a sampling of anonymous quotes about outcomes to therapy:
“I felt like a smelly trash bin … a trash bin that was full but the trash is gone! I had no one to help me but I feel fresh now! I’m have more balance! No more oppressed!”
“I feel more confident and open. I can talk about the (trauma) now. I couldn’t talk about it before. Now, if it comes up, I talk about it without any problem!”
“I feel better and I think about it (her traumatic experience) different now.”
“I can feel the change happening!”
“I feel like I can fly!”
“Since last time (our previous visit), I’ve been good. I’m happier! I don’t get upset with other people like before! I don’t feel tired, overwhelmed; I have energy! Opportunities have just come and I’ve known what to do. I’m so much better now! Thank you!”
“The Lord is close to those whose hearts have been broken. He saves those whose spirits have been crushed.” Psalm 34:18.
John & Robin Vendelin
There is nothing that brings greater joy than doing what you love with the people you love the most! We recently returned from Indonesia for our 2nd annual visit to the beloved girls and staff of Compassion First. Being empty nesters, sharing the role of overseeing the care for Sarah’s House has become an extension of our own family. We anticipated the reunion with the girls and staff for months in advance and were excited to bring our daughter Sophie to meet her newly extended family. Once through the door, it was like we had never been gone.
We had the privilege of travelling with a full clinical team including Lifespan Integration (LI) Instructor Cathy Thorpe, Trauma Therapist Robin and her husband John, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker Tiffany Fieken. Cathy Thorpe, an expert in the field of Lifespan Integration, provided an invaluable training workshop for our clinical staff. LI is a therapy tool used to clear a chosen past trauma, and it has been found to be particularly quick and effective with people experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. During the course of the training, we all had opportunity to be the client, the counselor, and the observer. Even though we were just learning (and stumbling through the steps), there was great healing that happened amongst our group. It was so exciting for us to witness firsthand the benefit this tool will bring to our staff and the residents in our care.
The most impressive result we witnessed in regard to the long-term benefit of LI was with one of our residents. Last year upon our arrival, we met a very anguished, angry, and upset teenager that ended up running away while we were there. Thankfully, she remained in contact with our staff and within two months had voluntarily returned to the shelter. Upon her return, she met our Trauma Therapist Robin. The two launched into their therapy sessions using LI and before too long, this girl had worked through many layers of trauma and was living with great relief. She was no longer experiencing the physical and emotional reactions to the triggers of her trauma. She was able to talk through her experiences without feeling upset and was moving past the pain in her day-to-day life. She dug in, worked hard, and un-covered the layers that were paralyzing her life and is now living full of joy and is well on her way to reintegration. Upon our arrival to Sarah’s House this year, she bounded out to greet us full of life and joy! She is currently in a vocational training program at an upscale Salon Training Institute, working toward becoming an instructor in hair styling, and cosmetology, all the while encouraging those around her at the shelter. This is quite a testament to the positive impact these services can produce in the lives of those in our care.
While it is difficult to separate from family, we departed with a sense of joy, satisfaction, and understanding that God has called us into His amazing work! It is so hard to describe what happens in your heart when you meet family across the world and your lives intertwine. Sometimes the work gets really tough, but you struggle through together. Yet in the midst of the struggle, you realize you are exactly where you should be and all is still right and good. That’s what it is for us right now—just doing life together with those we love and trusting God to lead us every step of the way.
Thanks for being part of the family, and for all you give to make life happen for these beautiful girls; they are worth every penny and more!
For the Girls,
Dean and Sarah Moshofsky
Field Staff Advisors
Note: For the protection of the girls in our care, they have each selected an alias, which appears in place of their given name in all Compassion First content.
Joyful squeals from both Compassion First staff and residents fill the walls of Sarah’s House as we celebrate the academic success of one of our survivors, Achie. After recently passing an Indonesian national exam that concludes her junior high school years, Achie has reached a milestone that now allows her to enroll in the country’s public high school system.
“As teachers we are so proud,” says Joy, “Whenever one of the girls can give a right answer in class or pass an exam it is exciting. Achie especially, she has become brave in her schooling and is able to comprehend what we teach more easily.” Though it is not always an easy process, the teachers are determined to help each girl reach her goal.
With traditional schooling beginning this month, it is with great enthusiasm that Achie prepares for her first day of high school. We are confident in her abilities and are excited for her future. Achie’s success is evidence not only of her hard work and the commitment of the CF teaching staff, but of the relentless support of our CF Everyday Advocates everywhere.
Thank you for your commitment to a better future for each survivor in our care.
It takes all of us.
This Wednesday, July 16th is Partner Rewards Bonus Day, which means that each donation is matched, up to $1,000. Thank you for helping to support Compassion First and our initiatives that further the dreams and hopes of girls like Achie.
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Assistant to Bickey Lloyd