“I did not believe that working with the children in Room 4 was going to make any difference to them at all but the changes I have seen are very big! Now I believe it is worth the effort”’ Quote from Maria, Head Nurse at Yelatma orphanage, Corpus 3.
I became very emotional when Maria said these words to me as this is exactly what I imagined all the staff had felt when we first started the project with the Room 4 children. This was my 3rd trip out to Yelatma for ThePromise and it has by far been the most positive and rewarding of the 3.
When Jo and I first came in December 2008 to assess the 14 children in the ‘end room’ or Room 4, we were shocked and deeply saddened by what we found. The children were so deprived of any stimulation or human contact that they simply sat or lay on the floor rocking, self harming or twirling endlessly around. When we walked into the room we were literally mobbed, the children hanging on us, pulling our clothes and hair until the angry carers ripped the children off us. These carers spent all their time guarding the door to room 4 to ensure that the children would not ‘escape’ out into the hall way and very few actually ever tried to make a bid for ‘freedom’.
Jo and I recruited 2 play workers (funded by ThePromise) on the first trip called Sveta and Lena. We left them with instructions to take each child out of room 4 daily and ‘get to know them’. We spent time assessing each child and set up some simple guidelines for working with them.
When we went out again in February 2009, we reassessed each child and set up some more formal therapy goals for them. We did some informal training with Sveta and Lena and they both really seemed to be enjoying what they were doing. It was apparent on this second trip that there were already some very noticeable changes in the children. Some of them were much more able to focus on the activities we were doing and the room seemed generally calmer. We also saw that some of the carers seemed to be engaging a little more with the children, though on the whole this was still an area of great concern.
Coming over this time has really proven that these children’s lives have been changed beyond what we could ever have imagined.
In general the feeling around Room 4 is changing. These changes are small and they are taking a long time in coming. But they are happening. I have seen the carers actually get up and fetch toys for the children. They have a table in the room with paper and crayons, they have a few board books to page through. The children are let out of the room, they go for walks outside, they get to play a little. The carers have watched in amusement as we take the children out, work with them, play with them. They have seen the children do things they never thought possible and perhaps, just perhaps they will begin to understand that they have potential to learn!
This project may be small but the impact for the individual children is huge! It has been worth the time, money and energy for each of the 14 children and I bet if they could thank all those that have made it possible they would do so with tears in their eyes!
Edmond Burke once said: “Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.”