This blog post was written by Lauren Song, My Refuge House’s Director of Development. For more information about Lauren, check out her bio here.
Last month, I spent a whirlwind 4 days in the Philippines eating all sorts of exotic food, having my stomach pinched (a sign of endearment in Filipino culture and also a reminder that a few more sit-ups really wouldn’t have hurt) and trying to keep up with 14 spunky teenage girls. We rolled in the sand, swam up to star fish, played tag and talked about their favorite music.
These girls allowed me into their world for a few days and reminded me that they are just children. They like to play with dogs, do each other’s hair and sometimes don’t eat all of their vegetables.
Three weeks after returning from the Philippines, My Refuge House hosted our annual benefit dinner in Orange County, California. At this event, we displayed art pieces that were painted by local artists in honor of our girls. Jan Dorian, one of the local artists, was scheduled to speak at the event about her art and, though she was nervous, she had her speech prepared and practiced. The evening prior to the event, Jan woke up in the middle of the night and could not help but think about and pray for the girl with whom she was matched. She began to think of her own children and that these girls really are not very different from them. Jan changed her entire speech in the middle of the night and vowed to convey this idea to the audience.
As Jan spoke, her thoughts came across very clearly. Though the girls at My Refuge House have been through unspeakable tragedy, they are just children.
When Jan’s children were playing at the beach or going to school, some of the girls were experiencing horrific trauma that robbed them of sweet childhood memories. However, in the face of all they’ve been through, these girls are still children.
At My Refuge House, the girls are being given their childhood back. They play, dance, sing and color. One of the girls insisted on burying me in the sand on the beach; how could I refuse such a typical childhood request?
There is a clear joy and hope that is pervasive when the girls are around. Why? They are children. They are finally enjoying a childhood. What a privilege to be a part of helping them recover those lost childhoods.