As rewarding as working with the children and grandparents can be, it is not an easy undertaking. Many – most – of the children have suffered trauma, and so have nearly all of the adults in their world. Wars, pandemics, climate-induced dislocations all have played a part in creating the Nakivale refugee settlement.
One day the program director, Daniel, heard a commotion and saw a small girl throw herself at his parked motor bike, knocking it over and beating it with her fists and feet, screaming at it as if it were alive and attacking her. People ran to restrain her, and she fell to the ground, seeming to suffer convulsions. No one could calm her; her distress was extreme. They called for medical help and finally, with the help of medication, her agitation gradually eased. But she would not – or could not – tell them what had upset her. Daniel had seen her frequently at the storytelling sessions, carrying her brother on her back. She was a quiet little girl who watched everything and never smiled.
Daniel guessed that the motor bike had triggered a traumatic memory, but no one really knew her story. It touched his heart to see a child suffering so deeply, and knowing that all of the children carried such pain within them only made him sadder. It was a difficult day – unusually heavy rains had caused extensive flooding throughout the valley, making travel difficult and leaving the area without electricity for three days. Now this disturbing event left him feeling especially low. At times like this Daniel was glad for the support of the Focusing Initiatives staff. He felt less alone – less overwhelmed – knowing that he could call them on zoom clear across the ocean and they would listen to his troubles and encourage him to practice good self-care.
The next day the sun was out. Daniel rode out to visit the storytellers again. This day, the grandparents decided to join the children as they drew pictures of the story during one of their discussion breaks. This caused a great deal of excitement and the children gathered around to see what the grandparents had drawn. The children were intensely interested, peering over the elderly artists’ shoulders. The grandmothers’ smiles spread all the way across their faces.
This time when Daniel contacted Focusing Initiatives, he had a smile on his face big enough to match the grandparents’ smiles. “This made my day!” he said.