My name is Sandy Kumar. I am a counseling psychologist and recently started working with the children at Baan Unrak. The children here come from many types of background with different kinds of family history. Sadly most of the stories are not the happy ones. There are a few children with a history of severe neglect and abuse which has been identified by the caregivers as priority children who require mental and psychological assistance from a professional.
The first visit revolved around getting to know the children and for the children to get to know me. This is a very sensitive process as asking direct question can increase their level of resistance in accepting or asking for help. By joining them in their daily chores, such as cooking, cleaning, planting flowers, digging fish pond, taking the children for swimming at the waterfall, a familiarity and trust is created . Slowly the children started talking to me about the snacks they liked, what kind of phones they wished they had. This is a very good start in building a relationship with the children.
One of the interesting observations were the interaction with the boys. While taking a break from working on the fish pond. They wanted to know what subjects were my favorite in school. Before I could respond, the boys started teasing each other “why are you worried about favorite subject, you will be a garbage collector, second boy joined in “and he will be a butcher, third boy joins in “he will sell clothes or vegetables”. I interrupted and asked them, apart from choosing a career for your friends, what do you personally want to do when you grow up? Total silence. I added that the reason why I wanted to know which is so I can help bring books and resources from Bangkok. Silence broke and one boy made another funny jokes that they are only in high school, they don’t think about it yet. Hours later one of the boys caught up to me at the stairs and asked me “Do you think I am smart enough to be an engineer?”. I said “ of course you can, what kind of engineer do you want to be, do you want to work with cars or build tall buildings or create electricity?” A group of boys caught up with him on the stairs and he ran away before answering to me.
Their lack of self esteem and empowerment not only for themselves but also towards each other were not taught to them at a younger age. Now as teenagers it is important to teach them these character traits so they can be stronger individuals in society and they can learn that praising and helping one another is more empowering than putting each other down.
After my first visit and talking to Didi and meeting with school teachers, we made plans for on next visit and have decided to start with a workshop on “Children safety” which will include activities on emotional expressions, discuss about “my body is mine” and involve children in identifying what areas in their bodies are “good touch or bad touch”, Ways to say “No”, how and who to ask for help. As for the boys we will talk about boundaries, consent and intimacy.