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A Weekend Getaway

January 3, 2012

From the Field

Finding ways to reach out to the children we work with and address their most pressing needs and concerns is not always an easy task. Sometimes we have to poke and pry and push, and sometimes we can only pull back and give them time, hoping that we left them at least pointed in the right direction.

In our poking and prodding, however, we did begin to hear a common refrain from the kids: I can’t talk to my parents. They don’t understand.

Allow us a knowing nod. Who here hasn’t gone through adolescence feeling, at some point, hard done by and misunderstood? That sharp, citrus cream of melancholic angst is a familiar taste, and the subject of countless Michael Cera-esque flicks.

But place that all-too-universal feeling under the magnifying lens of poverty and hardship, and shove it in the box of cultural taboos against disrespecting your elders (where even simple disagreement can be construed as disrespect), and throw in the excesses of teenage drama, plus the individual’s problems (problems at school, problems at work, romantic breakups…or even teenage pregnancy), and you’ve got some very combustible components just waiting to ignite.

Communication is not always a strong point in Thai culture. The concept of saving face may provide the veneer of social harmony, but it does not facilitate the open discussion of true feelings and real problems. It requires a real dance of polite words concealing all the things one cannot say. But communication between children and their parents is essential. For the work we do at SOLD, it is essential that kids feel they have a supportive environment so they won’t feel compelled to leave, seeking solace in the streets. We hope to provide a united front with the parents, too, in encouraging the kids to stay in school and to dream higher for themselves. But sometimes the pressures parents face here means that message gets lost. Many parents, themselves, came from unstable homes, and even if they want to be stable and secure providers, their lack of education or experience leaves them ill-equipped to do so. The parents have dreams and fears too, and in turn, wish they knew how to better communicate their feelings with their children.

At SOLD, we know we can’t solve all the problems between parents and their children, but we did hope we could do something to help ameliorate this problem of communication. So we put together a weekend camp getaway for the kids and their families.

A weekend getaway

We invited them to a two-day camp at a resort in the mountains, and in partnership with trained counselors, we focused on allowing the kids and their parents to air their concerns, both in separated groups apart from each other and then together as a group, and to find ways to learn to communicate them better.

Kids sharing together

Drawing exercises

Drawing their hopes

The beginning wasn’t easy, as you can probably imagine. But we played different types of games, engaged in a variety of exercises, they wrote and drew, and we encouraged listening and honesty.

Parents joining in the activity

Kids and parents together

There was sharing, laughter, tears…and shared embrace.

Giggles were involved

Hugs welcome

…And, um…dancing.

It was both powerful and humbling, and we walked away from the event thrilled.

We hope this weekend away sparked something big: a change in how the parents and children viewed each other and their hope of mutual understanding. We hope it sparked a sense of trust, that if you have something to say, you will be heard.

Love!

 

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