The research and statistics tell a part of the story, but to truly understand that child abuse is preventable, you must hear it in the words of those who have been served and those who have had the opportunity to work directly with children and families. These stories are so numerous that they are updated regularly.
My Time as an AmeriCorps Member
My Time as an AmeriCorps Member at the CAP Center
In my lifetime, I can only count a couple of moments that I really felt a sense of pride. I can openly say that one of those moments came when I joined AmeriCorps. To be perfectly honest when I joined AmeriCorps I did not have an idea of what I was getting myself into. All I really knew was that I would be helping kids and doing things in the community that would benefit everybody. That is really all it took to get me to join AmeriCorps. In the beginning, I was a bit insecure, I was scared that I would not do a good job or I would just flat-out fail. To my surprise, not only did this not happen but I can honestly say that joining not only made me a better person but also opened my eyes to a world that I was oblivious to.
This world is full of negative things but if we all tried and came together, we could make the world we call home a better place. That is exactly what AmeriCorps does. My first assignment was to be in a class of fifth graders that really knew how to push people's buttons. I was a bit hesitant because of what people had told me about them. They would say that they were rude and did not listen and would talk back at any chance they got. When I first walked into the class, they all just stared at me not really saying anything. I was nervous but as soon as I started walking around the class, I felt more comfortable and eager to help the kids. I would sit down and talk to them about how their day was or help them with an assignment. I realized that these kids were not bad they just needed somebody who would not judge them from the start and who was going to be there in the good and the bad.
One kid that really stood out of the bunch was Yuri. He was a kid that got in trouble for doing everything he was not supposed to do. Yuri would talk back to his teacher, fight with his schoolmates, and just walk around as if he did not care what anybody thought about him. Yuri caught my eye and I really started focusing on him. I would see him get frustrated at his desk and at first, he would tell me to go away but afterwards he would come and look for me to help him. Yuri was not a bad kid he just needed positive attention. Yuri made me realize that nobodies just bad, they just need someone to get down to their level and talk to them, understand how they're feeling. Maybe I did not change Yuri's life but I know that I made him feel a sense of belonging that you do not always have to break the rules to get attention.
This world is far from perfect. Many things need to be done and people that need to be helped. I am ecstatic that I helped not only kids in my community but entire families as well. I am glad that fear did not chase me away from something that has really influenced my life, maybe even changed it. I know now that not everything is rainbows and butterflies but it can eventually change if everybody did their part. I accomplished so much during my six months of service; imagine how much anybody could do in a year or two. I feel pride and a sense of accomplishment in knowing that I am an AmeriCorps member. I change people's lives. In my lifetime, I can only count a couple of moments that I really felt a sense of accomplishment AmeriCorps is now one of those.
This story starts on October 10, 1982, the day Lacrimioara was born. The name chosen by her mother foreshadowed the life that would follow. Meaning "little tear," it is also a beautiful white flower with a strong perfume. Born outside of marriage in very traditional Romania, Lacrimioara (known as "Gabbye"Â) was destined for a life of exclusion. First stigmatized as "illegitimate" ÂÂ by the community, her abandonment at age 2 1/2 stigmatized her again.
From then on, Gabbye was moved from institution to institution, always praying for the family that never materialized. Her mother's death in a fire dashed her only hope of reintegration. Institutional life is hard for a child, particularly a pretty one. Gabbye fought constantly to escape abuse by older children and staff, and grew into a wild teenager. Resentful of the daily violation of children's rights by the caregivers, Gabbye responded loudly and defensively.
Despite its legal obligation, the "care" system ignored her pleas for help to continue her education, and forced her out in 2001. Lift's Romanian partner Children on the Edge (COTE) began to help Gabbye that year, providing critical support that sustained her. An unforgettable moment occurred when staff located her younger sister, abandoned in an orphanage in another village. At their first meeting Gabbye and her sister could hardly find words to express their joy at finding family, but the tears and hugs said it all.
With funding from Lift the Children, COTE supported Gabbye with friendship, accommodation and food so she could focus on her studies. By the fall of 2003 she was a High School graduate preparing to enter the School of Social Work at the University of Iasi. Gabbye's strength and resilience never faltered. This summer, after six years of continuous support from Lift the Children and Children on the Edge, Gabbye completed her university work in sociology and found work in Germany. She expressed her appreciation in a recent email. "I don't write much, I just say especially to Children on the Edge many thanks for helping. You mean a lot to me. Thank you for a good life that I wouldn't have now without your help, thank you. I will do my best to continue what you worked on with me many years. I finished University with good results and now I have a good job in Germany, a nutritionist job. One day I will do what you did for me. Thanks again for everything. With love to Children on the Edge, Gabbye."
Father's Day is rapidly approaching and I'd like to give a "shout out" to all the great dads that provide a safe, caring home for their children, specifically my father. My father married my mother, his high school sweetheart, and now fifty four years later they are still happily married. My father has seen many changes but one thing is constant, his dedication to family.
My father worked for many years at a dangerous and physically demanding job that often left him exhausted. At times he held multiple jobs so our family could get by or have extras. Throughout the years while I was growing up, he coached little league, softball, brought us to church, attended all of our school functions, took us fishing and camping and more. I now wonder how he ever had the energy to work as hard as he did and find the time to participate in our lives so richly. Now he is in his mid seventies, childhood friends of mine and my siblings will drop in on my parents to see how they are doing. His influence has impacted many and it is wonderful to learn of others that also have fond memories of my father. Now years later I have learned that some of my friends and acquaintances were not so fortunate to have a great dad or a wonderful family life and turned to alcohol or drugs to mask their pain, lives in turmoil, and we never knew.
Thank you to my dad for always making his family come first. Today he is a loving grandfather who actively participates in the lives of his grandchildren and is instilling family values to the next generation. I now know how blessed I was to have an incredible dad. Happy Father's Day!