How we work - some examples

  • Bogotá - Colombia 2010

    Her hair was like a dry stick, others would call her a "tomboy". Ana was just getting into puberty and had already been injured as a woman. Her mother had been sexually abused by her stepfather and became pregnant of a girl at the age of 15. When the baby was born, she could not love her, so she was brought up by her grandmother. She grew up on the outskirts of Bogotá, where some people knew about her story but tried to hide it. Her mum moved to a different city with her two younger children - an 8-year-old boy and a six-month baby who were born to different men. She sometimes visits Ana on the weekend and gives her grandma some money for her sustenance, but cannot handle spending much time with her.
    Her teachers feel distressed about the girl's situation and do not know what to do. According to them, it is impossible to work with her. She is aggressive and rude with others, and very often isolates herself. Ana is the "pet" of an about 15-year-old girls' gang who are the girlfriends of a dangerous boys' gang. The boys deal with drugs and arms and are trying to impose themselves in the community through violence. One of her teachers perceives her sadness behind her anger and invites her to take part in a series of Expressive Sandwork sessions.
    When she gets to her first session, Ana is scared and keeps a distant attitude. I feel that my presence makes her unease and see that her upper lip is sweating. She turns her back to me and tries to hide what she is doing. She is asking for distance with her attitude. I step back. She looks a little calmer through the next sessions, does not ask me for distance and lets me accompany her, watching what she is doing. She keeps creating the same scene that she then covers with pieces of fabric, leaving it hidden in the end. At one point, she covers Virgin Mary with Baby Jesus by her side, in what seems to represent a Nativity scene that then stays covered. Over a few sessions, she keeps playing to create and cover her scene.
    In the 5th session, she smiles at me for the first time when she gets into the room. From this session on, she changes her play and starts representing scenes that she then leaves uncovered. She represents opposites that then integrate, such as dangers in front of which she builds protective spaces or chaos near a sacred treasure. She really surprises us in the second last session. When she gets into the room, she kisses each volunteer on the cheek. In the last sessions, she depicts different aspects of the feminine and the masculine: both women competing with each other and collaborating with each other; as well as both protective and violent men. In the last box, she carefully buries two men who attack and kill each other. Perhaps, with these graves she also buried, now in front of a witness, the sexual abuse that she suffered and can express her femininity feeling less vulnerable.
    Once the project ends, Ana leaves the girls' gang and her aggressiveness seems to decrease, while there are also noticeable changes in her previously dry hair and skin. Her grandmother reports an improvement in her performance at school. There are also changes in the relationship with her mother, who begins getting closer to her because of the emotion she feels when perceiving her tenderness towards her baby brother. It seems that this is a new beginning in the mother-daughter relationship.
    Mónica Pinilla Pineda

    Bucharest, a children's home 2014


    Her wrists are so thin, thinks the volunteer to herself as Corina begins to play in the sandbox. Her hands could just fall off those skinny little arms. Corina is underweight at age 10 and her dark eyes lack joyous expression.
    "In and out of hospital...”, explains the foster mother, shrugging her shoulders as if to say: everything has been done, but now even the doctors are tired. “First there was intestinal irritation, then the ulcer and almost constant inflammation. You can just see this girl getting thinner and thinner... But of course – how can she eat with all that belly pain, poor thing?”
    The children around her are loud, jumping and laughing. Corina never wants to sit with them at the lunch table. She sits apart, writing her homework slowly, very slowly. There is a risk of impaired growth.
    'How can she eat with all that pain?' – this phrase stuck in the volunteer’s mind.
    Corina’s mother left her when she was six. She does not know why: if the mother went to Italy or to Spain for work, if she lives on the street or if she has had other children. Corina asked a lot about her mother in the beginning, but then she stopped. She decided to wait.
    'She is waiting for her mother and she is waiting to grow,' thinks the volunteer because growing requires a mother who watches proudly over her child'.
    Since sandwork has started, Corina has played quietly among the others, so discreet one could easily forget she is there. She plays with little dolls and makes picnics for them. Choosing little plates of similar colours, putting bread loaves on a red table cloth. She pours sand in miniature pots and puts them on the table.
    Her sandwork process is discussed in the team meetings: A child who is not eating but plays eating for session after session? Is this doing her any good? Could it even be harmful: starving not only in front of the real table, but doing the same in the miniature world? But, on the other hand, the foster mother reports that Corina is more relaxed and that she is sleeping better. Maybe sandwork is helping her to cope better with her next hospitalisation?
    One month after the end of the project: The project leaders ask teachers and foster parents for feedback on all of the children who were involved in the project. Corina’s foster mother cannot wait to speak: “Do you know what happened? One day Corina came home from school and said: ‘From now on I am going to eat with all the other children’, –and she did! Her weight is improving each week!”
    In the volunteer’s mind, a thought appears: 'Corina’s mother – wherever she may be – can be proud of Corina: because her little daughter has decided to give life a try.'
    Eva Pattis Zoja

    Bucharest, a children's home 2015


    The boy was born without a birth certificate. Without any legal evidence whatsoever as to his existence. He was the nineth or tenth child born by a woman with severe mental problems and no home or address. Fortunately, the baby’s aunt had a job at an orphanage and she was able to take him with her to work. Thomas grew up in the orphanage together with many other children.
    "Thomas is a hyperactive child and can be quite nasty. Something should be done about his aggression”, says the teacher.
    'What can you do about a child’s aggression?' wonders the volunteer, while observing Thomas play during the first session: violence and chaos appear to jump out of the sandbox. One war scenario follows the other. War, war and more war; and shouting: “The strongest will win, the others are losers!"
    The volunteer cannot help herself from imagining Thomas as a grown up, an arrogant adult, drinking and bullying others. She looses interest in his play. Her thoughts are wandering.
    10 th session. The war scenes have repeated again and again. The volunteer feels a bit hopeless. By the end of the session, she couldn’t have said exactly what Thomas had played. Surprisingly her colleague, another vo lunteer who was sitting next to her, commented: “Today I noticed Thomas playing so quietly. It was a pleasure to have the two of you close to me”
    11 th session. The volunteer has gained hope again. Maybe it’s true? Maybe Thomas has changed some of his disruptive behaviour during play? But what is that worth if he doesn’t stop teasing others in his daily life? She begins to observe more attentively. ''War again, of course...!' But then she notices something different. There is a new atmosphere to the way he has set up the war scene, how carefully he has aligned the soldiers, the tanks and the weapons. And just then, as if Thomas had been reading her thoughts, he explained to her “You see, this army does not fight, these soldiers are exercising. And when they have completed their training, they will fight for this treasure.”
    Fight for.....?– it echoed in the volunteer’s mind when – quick as a shot –came Thomas’ question with a straight look in her eyes: “ What is your name?" Her voice was a bit hoarse as she replied “My name is Irina.” – "Irina!", Thomas smiled proudly and went on with his play, talking to her as if she were the child: “You see this treasure? This treasure’s name is “IRINA” and all these soldiers will fight for the treasure. And I tell you, they‘ll get it.?”
    Irina, hearing her own name pronounced in this way by Thomas, the child who’s birth had remained all but unwitnessed, couldn’t help feeling that she herself had received a name for the first time.
    One months after the project: Thomas’ behaviour has changed, he is more concentrated, calmer, does better at school and his social skills haven improved.
    Eva Pattis Zoja
  • Bogotá - Colombia 2010

    Su pelo era como un ramo seco, la llamaban “marimacho”, sobrenombre para las niñas que se comportan como hombres. Ana está apenas empezando su pubertad y tiene ya una herida como mujer. Su madre fue abusada sexualmente por su padrastro y a sus quince años quedó embarazada de la niña. Al nacimiento de la bebe, su abuela es quien la cría pues su madre no logra quererla. Creció en un barrio de la periferia de Bogotá donde algunos conocen su historia aunque tratan de ocultarla. La madre se trasladó a vivir a otra ciudad con sus dos hijos menores de diferentes padres: un niño de 8 años y un bebé de seis meses. Algunos fines de semana visita a Ana y da algo de dinero para su sostenimiento pero difícilmente soporta compartir mucho tiempo con ella.
    Sus maestras se sienten agobiadas por la situación de la niña y no saben qué hacer. Dicen que con ella no se puede trabajar. Es muy agresiva y grosera con los demás, se aísla frecuentemente. Ana es la “mascota” de una pandilla de chicas de aproximadamente 15 años que son novias de una peligrosa pandilla de jóvenes que trafican con drogas y armas e intentan imponerse en el sector a través de la violencia. Una de sus educadoras percibe además de su rabia su tristeza, y la invita a participar en las sesiones de Trabajo expresivo con arena.
    Ana llega a la primera sesión asustada, con una actitud distante. Siento que esta incomoda con mi presencia y veo cómo le suda la parte superior de sus labios. Me da la espalda y trata de ocultarme lo que trabaja, con su gesto me pide distancia. Doy un paso atrás. En las siguientes sesiones está un poco más tranquila, no me pide distancia y me deja acompañarla, observando lo que hace. Construye reiteradamente una escena, que luego cubre con telas, dejándola oculta al final. En una ocasión cubre a la virgen María junto al niño Dios, en lo que pareciera representar un nacimiento protegido que queda cubierto. Durante varias sesiones continúa jugando a construir y a cubrir.
    En la quinta sesión ingresa al salón y por primera vez me sonríe. Cambia desde esta sesión su juego: empieza a representar escenas que quedan descubiertas. Representa opuestos que se integran: peligros ante los cuales construye espacios de protección, caos cerca de un tesoro sagrado. En la penúltima sesión nos da una gran sorpresa. Cuando ingresa se acerca y saluda de beso a cada voluntaria. En las últimas sesiones representa diferentes aspectos de lo femenino y lo masculino: mujeres que rivalizan y mujeres que cooperan; así como hombres que protegen y otros que violentan. En la última caja entierra cuidadosamente a dos hombres que se agreden y se matan. Quizá con estas sepulturas también entierra, ahora con un testigo, el abuso sexual del cual fue producto y puede manifestar su feminidad sintiéndose menos vulnerable.
    Después de terminado el proyecto, Ana se desliga de las chicas pandilleras, disminuye su agresividad y son notorios los cambios en la resequedad de su piel y su cabello. Su abuela reporta mejoría en su rendimiento en la escuela. También se dan cambios en la relación con su madre quien empieza aproximarse a ella por la emoción que le genera percibir su ternura hacia su hermanito bebé. Pareciera que se abre ahora un nuevo comienzo en la relación madre-hija.
    Mónica Pinilla Pineda

    Medellín, 2014


    Érase una vez un niño de 9 años que se llamaba Miguel.
    Miguel era un niño feliz que vivía con su mamá, su papá y su hermanita en un municipio llamado Aguadas (Caldas). El niño y su familia soñaban con tener una casa para todos y para lograrlo su papá viajó a Argentina para trabajar y así poderles ofrecer una mejor calidad de vida. Con el tiempo Miguel crecía, pero también se fue enfermando, él no se sentía igual ya que su delgadez no era la misma a la de otros niños de su edad. El niño pasaba el tiempo extrañando a su padre y compartiendo con su familia.
    Días después el papá de Miguel anunció una triste noticia, él no volvería a Colombia a vivir con su familia, el papá de Miguel ya no estaba enamorado de su esposa y mejor decidió quedarse en Argentina y hacer un nuevo hogar con una novia en ese país. Tal situación desbastó a la familia pero en especial al niño quien vio desvanecer las ilusiones de estar con su papá para siempre. La salud de Miguel con los días no mejoraba, le ocurrían síntomas que la mamá no entendía, el niño iba a diferentes hospitales pero nadie acertaba con lo que tenía.
    Un día Miguel, estando de paseo con su mamá en Medellín, sufrió una recaída y fue llevado al Hospital San Vicente Fundación, allí con la experiencia de los médicos descubrieron una enfermedad bastante rara: "Anemia de Células Falsiformes", esta es una enfermedad de la sangre bastante particular que era la causante de la extrema delgadez del niño, sus glóbulos rojos eran alargados (distintos a los que tiene el común de las personas que tienen forma redonda). Esta situación implicaba someter al niño a transfusiones de sangre cada 3 días ya que así el niño mejoraría su fragilidad y se desarrollaría más saludable. Por lo anterior Miguel, debería abandonar su pueblo y radicarse en Sabaneta (Antioquia) para estar cerca del Hospital que supo descubrir lo que tenía.
    Tantas dificultades volvieron a Miguel un niño lleno de agresividad, seriedad, con desánimo para estudiar y hasta lleno de ira y amargura, era un niño que no mostraba aliento en su vida.
    Estando el Hospital San Vicente, Miguel conoció el Aula Hospitalaria, allí podría disfrutar, aprender cosas nuevas y hasta estudiar a la par con su tratamiento, sin embargo las heridas del alma y las tristezas seguían sin curarse.
    Más adelante una maravillosa unión se gestó en el Hospital, la Fundación Sura llegó con una propuesta extraña de juegos en la arena que prometía cosas maravillosas en la vida de los niños con vulnerabilidad. Los juegos en la arena bajo el nombre de Trabajo Expresivo con Arena trajeron consigo varios voluntarios que aspiraban ser escogidos por algún niño con quien quisieran compartir sus juegos bajo la regla estricta del silencio, a menos de que el niño quisiera por su propia voluntad hablarle a su respectivo voluntario.
    Miguel haría parte de Trabajo Expresivo con Arena y para participar en él escogería casualmente a Jaime el único hombre del equipo. El niño con sus manitos y toda su creatividad haría juegos increíbles durante 12 sábados y en ellos siempre estaba Jaime procurando propiciar en el niño un espacio protegido para plasmar en la arena todo lo bueno o malo que en la vida le había marcado y le impedía ser feliz.
    Se vivieron 12 sábados fabulosos, donde Miguel y Jaime con mínimas palabras compartían juntos y su vínculo se fortalecía, con el tiempo Miguel fue abandonando su agresividad, la felicidad iba llenando su vida y además aprendía a convivir con su enfermedad y lo más importante: era capaz de existir y convivir sin tener un padre al lado.
    Los 12 sábados pasaron y Miguel transformó muchas cosas de su vida, el último día fue el más especial ya que aunque él y Jaime sabían que nunca se volverían a ver, los dos sellaron una amistad en el silencio donde aprendieron cosas maravillosas que les cambiaría la vida para siempre.
    Cuento Jaime Díaz

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