39 Reasons Reason#7 Family

She was walking next to me during a tour of an art school in the city, admiring the shapes, textures and colours of student work displayed throughout the school like a gallery

I was excited to show her what was possible and what was available to her when she was ready

It was at the colour red where she paused and took in a soft gasp as she had an epiphany

She told me how they waited to get out of the camp until everyone in her family was accepted

Five years in Canada, unlearning her colonial French, and learning English she started to unpack her gruesome baggage

The more words she learned, the more her experiences took shape

In presence, she never missed a day of school

Her school office admired her attendance and made her feel like each day she came mattered

In her mind she was re-living the nightmares of home and the unravelling of her land, community and childhood that she never had

Too difficult to unfold, even for the seasoned counsellor

She turned to three organizations for help, not one could help a 15-year old girl with such deep seated trauma, the kind that keeps you awake at night and distracted during the day

It was this moment, walking through the art school that I would learn the most

She told me how she would love to be a doctor, how she was a defacto doctor from age five when she fled her village in an instant

She told me about the other young children and women she met who were also fleeing and who were in need of great medical care that she was able to provide in the most rudimentary ways possible, wrapping her hands around wounds and missing limbs, calming other children that she met

The loss and bloodshed she was witness to was too great to name

She told me that her journey was lonely and even lonelier because she had to make herself invisible in order to escape and hopefully reconnect with her family

For her, she was longing for a childhood that she never had and that was out of reach as she neared the age of 18, the last year she had left in the comfort and familiarity of high school

“you’re eighteen now, you need to start thinking about your future”

These expectations confused her, “how can I do that?” she asked

I remember standing beside her that day, telling me how she can’t wait to have children so that she can give them the childhood they deserve

She’s right, she is a caring mother

She makes me wonder what continued adult education support could have looked like for her

What could a young mother's program truly look like for a young woman like her, entering motherhood, coping with trauma, and finding her way


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