What happens when Volunteers go home...
Until last week, I had often wondered what happens in the aftermath of a group of volunteers coming to Rehoboth. The change from an outpouring of attention, activities, energy and excitement (all part of the beauty of teams serving onsite) back to the normal routines at Rehoboth must have an impact. Is there a time of adjustment - an unsettling when things start to settle again?
The answer is Yes. There is a time of unsettling - as there would be with any child who has had some exciting special event in their little life ! Does it outweigh the value of visitors? - no - but the response of the staff and in particular our administrator Fe, has left me awestruck and reflective.
Before the teams arrived the children did not want to waste anything, but after, they began to refuse food in anticipation of something different. The level of mischief and misbehavior increased and there was a less respect toward the Mamas (care-givers).
In response, Mama Fe, the administrator, gathered the older children together to talk to them. If you've ever met Fe, you will know that grace oozes out of her skin and her calm and gentle manner is like an umbrella for all of her actions. With loving tenderness she discussed with the children what they have at Rehoboth - food to nourish their body, a roof to sleep under, a comfortable bed, shoes on their feet and clean clothes on their back, school for the nourishment of their mind - and mamas who love them and care for them. She showed them a few images of children living in poverty and discussed with them scenes that they see often in their local town Tanay - children on the street with no shoes, selling bags in the market - who are hungry, wet and dirty. They reflected together on the blessed place in which they live. Not a place of material abundance, but a place where their needs are met.
In the light of this 2 things happened....
First, a trip to the supermarket to buy small packets of snacks. Their next outing was not to the pool or the waterfall or Jolibee for lunch - but to the street kids with the opportunity to hand out food to children who did not have enough, who had no comfortable bed to sleep in, no shower, a maybe a small corrugated iron roof over their head. With this gentle and simple reminder to be thankful for what we have - the little souls at Rehoboth were nurtured with a depth that can not be measured. At Rehoboth, there is not money left over for snacks - so snacks are a real treat. But sharing with others who have less, not just the left overs, but things that are desirable, became a lesson of generosity and thankfulness, learned in love.
Second, the older children were able to accompany some staff on the monthly grocery trip. This is a mammoth task, but each child was given a list of groceries that they were responsible to buy. Fe explained, in her mother hen way, that "everything is good for the eyes, but we will buy only what we need". After finishing buying the groceries, they shared a simple meal together at a local restaurant - sitting around the table together.
After their discussion and outings, there was an immediate change in the children - they are once again taking care of their toys and shoes, not wasting food and are able to see more clearly the blessings around them.
I remember Fe once saying to me "How can the children learn to give to others if they are always receiving? What kind of a life with a forever family are we preparing them for if they always expect gifts but never learn how to give them? What kind of people are we raising who can only receive? How can we expect them to love their new family if we don't teach them to give and receive love? If they only receive pity for their circumstance, how does this start to life not become the anthem of their life?"
One of the many things I admire about Rehoboth is how the staff provide the love, compassion and care needed for these little ones - whose start in life has been difficult - without fear to nurture and guide the children with what they need, when they are ready. This requires great wisdom.
Is Rehoboth the best place for these little ones? For the moment - Yes. Forever - No. Rehoboth's aim is "Every child in a loving and caring family" and they are doing their best to prepare the children for a forever family whom they can give to, receive from, care for, love and be loved.