Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Back to the House

An emotional return to Casa Elohim.

Mike and Heidi (the Swiss missionaries - or, rather, visionaries - whose love and persistence help keep the doors of the rescue house open) posted a Welcome Home sign on my door, accessorised appropriately with the Brazilian flag - the only national flag (I noticed recently) with an in-built joke: "Ordem e Progresso".

The changes that have taken place in my two month absence soon become apparent: the boys who have returned to their families, the adolescents who can hold down a job for long enough to afford a place of their own. It's a whole new dynamic. The pecking order has changed.

L was expelled from school. Again. With his background (on the street aged 10, culminating four years later in Crackland - a notorious part of the city, the name of which is somewhat self-explanatory), it's amazing his troubles in re-adjusting to "normal" society haven't been greater. In the past he has run away from numerous state institutions, not lasting more than four months in any of them. He has been at Elohim for almost a year now, and although I'd like to say that it's solely because the rescue house is not an institution, his time here has not been without episodic relapses.

I had always suspected the possibility that he may ask his friends to buy drugs at school and bring them back to the house (the schools here make Grange Hill look tame), but I was shocked to discover that not only was cocaine being used in school, but L and his mates knocked-off the local supermarket to fund their habit. The only reason why he isn't in jail now (where his friends are and where no doubt there is a veritable smorgasbord of drugs to choose from) is that he was just out of the camera angle of the security camera. Small blessings.

I am reminded constantly of the great responsibility that I have here, and how fickle life is within the walls of the house. One never knows how long the children are going to be here. When the hug you give a child will be the last opportunity, the last communication you have with them, before they move on to a very different (and, hopefully, better) life. A life within a family.

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