Working in a childrens home - what does that mean exactly?
I will be honest and admit that before starting my volunteer service I too was unaware. In Germany I never had any experience of this side of the social welfare system and I decided to take it as it comes.
Prior to my work experience I heard comments from those working in the sector such as “When I help out sometimes I come home in tears” or “Under no circumstances should you get too attached to the children”. Thus on my first work day I had a lot of anxiety about this – as how can I work with children if I cannot develop bonds with them???? Unimaginable to me.
By now I have been working for more than a month at Hogar de Vida and of course the question
arises: were these people correct with their warnings?
Bit by bit I learned more and more details of the childrens terrible fates. It tears one up inside when a ten day old baby becomes the youngest resident of the home or when a 3 year old child so ardently takes care of his 1 year old brother so that he has in fact taken on the parental role. The greatest dream of every child living here is to have a family and above all loving parents.
I would be lying if I were to claim that I didn't shed any tears because of this. For one thing the tears are and were tears of sadness as every one of these children deserves to grow up with loving parents. But also they are tears of joy and tears of admiration for the children who despite their experiences have not given up belief in the goodness in people or hope of finding parents and family. And the tears are also gratitude for my own happy and carefree childhood as well as my loving family.
As I suspected it would be impossible for me to work there without developing bonds with the children. I was unbelievably happy when I learned that in my work role it was expected that I was to be a role model for the children that there are people in the world who love them and care for them!
Though to be clear Hogar de Vida is intended as a way station on the way to their family for life. And after working with the children you are delighted when a child finds such a family. Naturally it leaves an empty space when the child leaves and is no longer there,
Nonetheless the laughter and joyful expressions in the childrens eyes every day is a sign that they feel happy and safe and that we are doing a good job. When one pays attention to the small moments a hug, a smile one has to admit there are more positive moments than negative.
The work in a childrens home is hard and sometimes emotionally draining. One has to take on the role and duties of a mother but must not replace the mother.
Despite this the work here is unbelievably fulfilling and one is allowed to contribute to ensuring
the children have as carefree a childhood as possible. First words, first steps, birthdays etc. are moments that I had the privilege to witness and these are the moments I will think back on the most.