It Takes a Village
“Thank you for being here. I didn’t think I could do it, but you all knew I could. I still can’t believe I finally did it.”
These are words from a young, resilient, bright and courageous teenage girl on the day she reached her own personal goal – graduating from a 60-day residential addiction treatment centre. I sat in a circle accompanied by her social worker, house supervisor, Addictions Foundation Manitoba worker, support staff, and other youth from the treatment centre.
The day was a beautiful one, filled with raw emotion. It deeply reinforced why I do what I do. There wasn’t a dry eye in the circle when, riddled with anxiety, she found the courage to end the ceremony with a poem. When it was my turn to speak, I found myself repeating words that I had told her plenty of times during this long journey:
“I am so proud of you, but most importantly, I hope you are proud of yourself.”
I had planned out a short speech a few days earlier, but was so overcome with emotion that my mind drew a blank. This day did not come easy, and when I think of the trauma and pain this girl has been through in her short life, I am simply astonished by her resilience.
They say that it takes a village to raise a child for good reason. It took a large team of resolute, kind-hearted, hopeful people to get to this point. A team that included psychologists, therapists, social workers, case managers, teachers and residential staff. A team that has cried together, laughed together, worried together and rejoiced together. A team, that regardless of the odds, never wavered.
A team that has wiped the eyes of a scared and wounded child, wiped the blood from her bleeding wrists, monitored her through the night as she came down from the effects of drugs, and traveled with her by ambulance each time she experienced an overdose.
The same group of people listened with heavy hearts to stories of the night before. Stories of being sexually exploited and forced to trade drugs for sex. They provided first aid to the self-inflicted injuries. Witnessed the drugs and alcohol grip her body and mind, turning this kind, gentle young girl into someone they didn’t recognize.
They were the ones she berated, threatened and called every unimaginable derogatory name. Still, when morning came, those same team members helped braid her hair, while she apologized through tears. And little-by-little they helped build up her self-worth.
Eventually, this resilient young girl found the courage and strength to realize she needed help, and when she was ready, her support team helped this frightened and vulnerable victim of sexual exploitation seek out the justice she very much deserved.
There is no doubt this is just the beginning, and there will be more hurdles and set-backs to fight through. But when I think of how far this young girl has come, and what we made it through together, I am filled with undeniable hope for the future.
As I sit in my office surrounded by expressive works of art, drawings of brightly colored hearts, flowers, and messages of thanks from participants we support, I am reminded of the innocence of a child. One who longs to do good, to make others happy, and who simply wants to belong. But above all that, I am reminded of the amazing, undeniable power of positive relationships.
-Turning Leaf Residential Clinical Case Manager