Secret lives of children in crisis centres

Imagine that you are 10 years old. Instead of enjoying a carefree childhood with your family you move from one crisis centre to another. Your life basically doesn’t have any rules which is reflected also in school results.

Really anyone may end up in crisis centre. We never know what destiny brings us regardless of the family and social conditions we come from. In our public television RTVS we could recently watch second season of great TV series Tajné životy (Secret lifes), which represented a breakthrough in the discussion on domestic violence. The TV series showed complicated life stories of women who for different reasons ended up in crisis centre. Very often however also children end up in centres with their mothers. And that is why we are in our volunteering programme Som tu pre Teba (I am here for you) focused on them.

Children in crisis centres don’t have any role model

"When mothers come to us together with their children they are often confused in their situation. They don’t understand where they ended up or if the crisis centre is for example a school or a day care. It is important to explain children what kind of facility we are and what are we for. Children often get used to the centre very fast and consider it as their “temporary” home,” explains the psychologist from the crisis centre where we launched the volunteering Som tu pre Teba tutoring programme. Children who ended up here often don’t have motivation to learn as their own parents don’t support or motivate them in gaining education. Often, they spend their free time only by watching TV. In school they are often harassed as they are always “the new ones” and they often come from socially disadvantaged environment. Our trained volunteers meet with the specific child once in a week for 2-3 hours directly in the crisis centre. They help them with the preparation for school, preparation of homework, they learn together or just play games with them and talk about what happened last week in their lives.

Children in crisis centre sense that not everything is all right in their lives

Our volunteers don’t speak with children about their experiences from home on purpose. Negative experiences however are obvious from their behaviour and stories they tell. Volunteer Anka explains: “Barborka doesn’t like to speak about her parents, especially about her father with whom she lives. I only know that she suffers because she has only few friends as she was transferred from different school.” Volunteer Janka claims that her nurse child knows why he is in the crisis centre. He is already 13 years old and talks about it from time to time. “It influences him. He feels here very constraint that that one room is too small for his family (mom and 3 children). “ Volunteer Katka also explains that her nurse child Sisa is aware of her family situation. “When I feel she is traumatised, I support her. She is a very intelligent and conscious child. When she will work on herself she will become a very viable person also in difficult living conditions.”

Bond with a child is not always created easily

Trust is the basis for any relation. It is even more difficult to gain it from a child who is often confused in life and it is not his fault. Our volunteer Peťa remembers good but also bad moments. “Confidential relation is built very slowly and it very much depends on the nature of both volunteer and child. It is however amazing when a child you are tutoring hugs you and tells you how his day and vacation was.” Work of volunteer Janka with her nurse child is relatively good. “Sometimes it is better sometimes worse. It depends on his actual mood – attitude towards studying. Filipko is not very assertive he is calmer, shy but in spite of that he found friends relatively fast. The trust however grew step by step.” And in order for it to grow even more one volunteer works with one child for at least one year within the Som tu pre Teba project so they get used to each other. This is how a relation between child and volunteer is built, which is very beneficial for the child – he is experiencing the feeling of acceptance and he is gaining a positive role model in the person of volunteer.

Tutoring of children in crisis centres has double impact

On one hand children are improving at school on the other hand our volunteers feel useful. According to the psychologist from the crisis centre the project Som tu pre Teba really works. “Children are improving their grades, some of them by even two grades. It really helps them when someone devotes their time to them and patiently explains them what they don’t understand or they have problems with. They are creating kind of a habit and they start to consider the preparation for school as something they should do.“ Volunteer Mirka also found herself in this type of volunteering. “If these children will have a better life thanks to education it is much more as to rely only on material support. It is a great motivation for me and that is why I really like to work with them.”

Since the topic is sensitive we changed the names of children and volunteers.

Thanks a lot for your support!

BDC Team

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