Kimmie Read

(USA) - Montessori Teacher
March 1, 2011 - Honduras

Building rewarding relationships
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Now that I’ve passed my halfway point here at the Ranch, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my time here. When I arrived in July 2010, I had already been here as a visitor and knew that in addition to my regular job as Montessori teacher, I’d also be working evenings and every other weekend with a particular group of kids, an hogar. I was absolutely adamant about wanting to work with boys. As fate would have it, only girls’ hogares were open. I ended up in one that wasn’t even on my radar: Hijas de Pilar, girls age 16-20.

It is not an easy task to earn the trust of a teenage girl, especially one whose life experiences have taught her the consequences of emotional vulnerability. But little by little, you can begin to break down walls. To start with, you learn her name and use it as much as possible. Nothing else better says, “I care about you. I know you. I see you for the individual you are.” You tell her a positive experience you had with one of her siblings. You find out her birthday and write her a special card; if she won’t be here for her birthday, you make sure she has the card ahead of time with explicit instructions not to open it before her special day, which she will inevitably ignore. You work alongside her, sweeping, mopping, raking, or baking bread. You bring her a little bottle of nail polish when she finally stops biting her nails. You help her with her homework. You take her to the clinic when she is injured or sick and make sure she takes her medicine. You cheer for her at her soccer game. You find out she loves to learn English and teach her to say what your mom used to say to you before bed every night. You hug her every day and tuck her in at night.

And the fruits of your labor will be beyond what you could have imagined. She will take a pair of your old jeans to the sewing workshop and transform them into fabulous skinny jeans so you can finally be fashionable according to Honduran standards. When you’re late for dinner, she will save your food for you. She will wash your plate because she shows her love through acts of service. When you camp with the hogar during fumigation, she will share her pillow and blankets. She confides in you. She lets you hold her hand and comfort her as she tells you how her parents were killed. When you experience heartbreak, she will assure you that no one could possibly love you more than your girls. When she leaves for high school, she will leave you with a prized possession so that you will never forget her, as if you ever could.

Before you know it, you have 22 little sisters, 22 daughters, and 22 best friends. And you are secure in the knowledge that these relationships you have developed will last far beyond your year in this place.

Kimmie Read
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