What does “home” mean to you? What does the phrase “feeling at home” bring up for you?
The usual suspects are feelings of being in a cocoon of warmth, safety, nourishment and joy. Everyone, irrespective of who they are, deserves to know this feeling, to live it and revel in it. As a society, at least that is what we dream of, hope for and aspire to, for our children.
But as we seek to find ways of making this dream a reality, we often also learn that “being at home” may not always be about being in a physical location, or even with the people that traditionally, you would imagine making a home with.
Does that then mean that those who do not have this traditional home are never at home, or can never experience that feeling? Not at all! After all, home is where the heart is.
Read Rhea’s story to learn how this young girl is making the whole wide world her home, her oyster, through finding trust and confidence in her needs for safety and love, self-validating her ideas of what it means to be alive, what it means to be her.
We have shared a part of Rhea’s story earlier where we shared supporting her in navigating two cases of abuse that she had experienced.
The heartbreak of her trust being violated first by her father and then, a father figure, the disdain and isolating stigma from a community that failed to offer compassionate support to a child in need, and the proceedings in court are in theory itself a lot for anyone to handle, let alone a child without familial support. Consistent support from us however, allowed her resilience to shine through, helping her navigate her life’s challenges.
The part that has been harder for Rhea, however, has been coming to terms with the impact that everything has had on her relationships, specifically her relationship with her mother. Instead of being protected and supported in her courageous act of reporting abuse, and her aspiring for more safety and compassion than she had received since the age of 8, Rhea found herself at the receiving end of blame, stigma and isolation.
At the end of it, Rhea was left in deep anguish over the future of her relationship with her mother. She was willing to tolerate anything if it meant that this one parental relationship will remain with her as she grows older, becoming wary of doing anything that may jeopardise that possibility.
Unpacking the Idea of Home
When Rhea had first reported abuse at the hands of her biological father, her mother blamed her for the family’s misfortunes. We understood that as societal stigma and the new financial responsibility of the family on her head, informing her lack of support (and blame) towards her daughter. Rhea bore that blame, holding tightly onto hope that with time, things would get better for and with her mother.
But that did not happen. Heartbroken, Rhea found her mother completely unsupportive of the second case being reported leading to her being initially hesitant about reporting the second case to preserve whatever was left of her relationship with her mother.
But that did not change the fact that she was now completely alone in a house that was not safe for her, a “home” that was far from the idea of a warm cocoon of safety that Rhea so desperately held on to and hoped to find some day. With the way things panned out, we helped Rhea immediately move to a shelter home to ensure her safety.
However, the harm had been done. Rhea entered a shelter home filled with feelings of self-blame, believing that her abuse, and everything she had undergone was her fault, saying to our social worker that “perhaps there is a flaw in me that has made me so vulnerable, inviting the abuse that I have experienced.”
Making the World her Home
While we continued to work with her to help her overcome her feelings of guilt and blame, the physical separation from her mother and the house helped immensely! Spending more time away from the family house and her mother opened Rhea’s eyes and heart to her reality. Rhea started to understand how at her family home she was not cared for or protected at all. Her wellbeing was never a part of the agenda. Pondering over all this, Rhea shared one day, “I think I now understand what being safe truly means.”
Rhea turned 18 this year and is now in a home that is designed specially for children who have lived in shelter homes to be supported in transitioning out of the Home and reassimilating back into society as adults.
Overcoming feelings of guilt and shame, this extraordinary child has grown leaps and bounds with the world as her home now. She is studying for her final exams and learning vocational skills while earning a stipend. Her heart clear of confusion and the grief of betrayal, Rhea has found a home in her own dreams and aspires to be a Social Worker to help children like her.
Recently, Rhea’s mother spoke to her on the phone, telling her that she is looking to get Rhea married. For a child, who has spent the last few years in fear and self-blame, Rhea confidently told her mother that she has found her path and goal, and she would return only after achieving that.
Rhea initially clung on to her mother because she was the only parental figure that meant “home” to her. A little distance helped her understand how in that notion of “home,” Rhea’s needs, wants and even her right to being cared for and protected were never part of the agenda. That wasn’t home. Too many children remain stuck in unsafe homes because of the lack of support in being able to safely find their way out.
We want to enable more children like Rhea to make a world of possibilities their home. We are currently supporting over 200 children like Rhea to access legal & psychosocial support.
Join us in expanding our efforts so that more children find their way to safety and healing. Whatever you donate will go towards providing long term care to more children.
Every bit counts. Give now to help children to ‘Begin Again.’